It’s a busy year for Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing. As she flies out to Los Angeles to start work on her upcoming show at Regen Projects (11 December 2014 – 24 January 2015), a show has just closed at Maureen Paley in London that exhibited her single-screen video work We Are Here, first shown at The New Art Gallery Walsall earlier this year.
This month will also bring the announcement of the prestigious Vincent Van Gogh Biennial Award, for which Wearing has been nominated alongside Pierre Huyghe (France), Manfred Pernice (Germany), Willem de Rooij (Netherlands), and Anri Sala (Albania/France), all of whom are currently represented in the associated group show at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag in the Netherlands (until 1 February 2015). The winner will be revealed on 21 November.
And then there’s the recent culmination of a four-year project: Wearing’s public sculpture A Real Birmingham Family was unveiled in Centenary Square, Birmingham, at the end of October. In 2011 and 2012, residents of Birmingham were invited to nominate families to be the face of the city. There were no restrictions or definitions on what could be considered a ‘family’, and Ikon Gallery, the project leaders, received hundreds of applications
Two sisters, Emma and Roma Jones, and their sons Kyan and Shaye were selected by the artist and a diverse panel of community, cultural and religious figures. ‘I really liked how Roma and Emma Jones spoke of their closeness as sisters and how they supported each other,’ Gillian Wearing said. ‘It seemed a very strong bond, one of friendship and family, and the sculpture puts across that connectedness between them.’
This work has followed on from Typical Trentino Family (2008), which similarly aimed to capture a bronze portrait of a family in the city of Trento, Italy. But for Wearing, who grew up in Birmingham, this project is much closer to home. It seems to go hand-in-hand with We Are Here, for which the artist returned to the area in which she spent her childhood and asked local residents to share memories and tales of life in the West Midlands.
While Gillian Wearing and the Jones family were on hand to see the bronze sculpture unveiled, Ikon Gallery has stated the project’s aim is to ‘draw attention to the unsung, and to raise questions about civic identity and what it means to be a family today’. Sited in front of the new Library of Birmingham, which opened in 2013 and which the architect Francine Houben has described as a ‘people’s palace’, it is an optimistic new symbol for England’s second city.