Though better-known as an Academy Award–winning filmmaker, Steve McQueen got his start as an artist, and his works meant to be shown within museum walls are getting a major showcase at Tate Modern in London this winter. It seems that that showcase, which kicked off in November with the debut of a new artwork and will be followed by a mid-career survey in February, has already begun with a splash.

Tate museums, a network of 35 institutions and galleries, and McQueen—whose Year 3 project, a new large-scale installation of 3,128 class portraits comprising 76,146 children between ages 7 and 8 is now on view at Tate—have released a statement demanding that the British government support arts curricula in secondary schools throughout the country. Its release follows the U.K. election last week, which saw a victory for conservative party leader Boris Johnson.

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Steve McQueen, 'Static', 2009.

Tate said in its release that McQueen’s Year 3 project is regularly drawing as many as 600 schoolchildren daily, and the museum has vowed to develop learning resources and organize special gallery and workshops visits for the 1,504 schools involved in the work.

“Access to the visual arts in this country must not depend on social and economic advantage. Private schools place a premium on a rich cultural education for their pupils while many state schools are starved of the resources to support access to culture and creativity for their pupils,” Maria Balshaw, director of Tate, said in a statement.

McQueen said that “art and creativity are so important to science, to maths, or to any other academic venture. Cutting arts education means you cut off inventiveness which impacts on being creative. We have many great artists, great thinkers and inventors in the U.K. and this has come through a sense of possibility. Arts education gives that sense of possibility.”

The museum and its network have also called for the restoration of arts curricula to the core of national education programs in the U.K.

“Setting up the conditions for creativity in future generations is essential,” Anne Cutler, director of learning and research at Tate, said in a statement. “Art does this with ease as well as being generative, collective and individual.”



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