Film director Steve McQueen is on a roll. First the Golden Globe for best film, then his Oscar nomination for best film director it seems as if there is no stopping his Hollywood appeal. It’s not just the film insiders’ opinion – check out the Google stats!
Did you know he’s Grenadian? Of course you did! He’s your mum’s second cousin’s schoolfriend from Mt Craven’s nephew right? While you may have seen the film (a future classic) and read the book (confession – we haven’t) here a few simple nuggets of information to help you come out looking like an art buff next time his name is mentioned.
Here are four key moments on his path to success (but do check out his earlier work “Carib’s Leap”, commemorating the indigenous islanders who plunged to their death in Sauteurs rather than surrender to the French).
1. Turner Prize
1999 was the year Steve McQueen pipped Tracey Emin to the Turner Prize – the annual award presented to a British visual artist under the age of 50.
Emin, Queen of the Young British Artists, was such a strong contender that what most people remember about the awards ceremony was her drunken ranting, rather than McQueen’s incredibly brief acceptance speech.
While Emin quickly rose to celebrity status, McQueen’s path, as we will see, took a number of more understated twists and turns.
2. Steve McQueen exhibition at Fondazione Prada
So when, in 2005, her Fondazione Prada in Milan brought the first exhibition of Steve McQueen’s work to Italy, it cemented his global appeal.
The Fondazione described the British Grenadian as an artist celebrated for his “sophisticated use of film in which moments of great intensity alternate with others of alienating despair”.
3. Steve McQueen – War Photographer
In 2006, McQueen travelled to Iraq as an official war artist yet the work he produced was a damning political statement. ‘Queen and Country’, is an installation of facsimile stamp sheets bearing photographic portraits of British service personnel killed in Iraq.
More than 20,000 people signed a petition for an official set of stamps to be issued by the Royal Mail but despite the backing of slain servicemen’s’ families, the British government wasn’t having any of it.
McQueen’s installation is currently on show at the Imperial War Museum until 23 February 2014 so if you’re in London, check it out.
4. Venice Biennale
By 2009, despite his controversial reputation, McQueen was invited by the British Council’s to represent Britain at Venice Biennale, a biannual contemporary art festival that has been dubbed the olympics of the art world.
The artist presented Giardini, a series of evocative vignettes set in the gardens of the Venice Biennale. According to one author the films convey “an unexpected intertwinement of aesthetics and politics”.