The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced that Turner Prize–winning artist Gillian Wearing will be the first woman commissioned to make an artwork for the UK’s Parliament Square, Mark Brown of The Guardian reports. The “milestone project” was endorsed by Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this month.
Wearing will create a statue of suffragist Millicent Fawcett, who led the biggest suffrage organization, the NUWSS, from 1890 to 1919 in the UK, and played a key role in gaining women the right to vote there. The work will be installed alongside nine statues of men—Sir Robert Peel, Benjamin Disraeli, the Earl of Derby, Lord Palmerston, Field Marshal Jan Smuts, Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi. The statue will be installed in 2018 during the centenary celebrations of women winning the right to vote in the UK.
Activist Caroline Criado-Perez launched a campaign to break up the male-dominated square in 2016. She started a petition that was signed by eighty-five thousand people. “Women make up more than half the population—but from looking at our public spaces, you would never know that,” Criado-Perez said. “Just 2.7 percent of British statues are of named women, and even these are mostly royals.”
In the September 2011 issue of Artforum, Emily Hall reviewed Wearing’s show at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in New York. She wrote: “Long before Facebook, Gillian Wearing was pulling apart the conflicted, mediated relationship between our real selves and those we present to the world. Whether photographing strangers on the street holding signs that state what they’re thinking, or documenting herself dancing wildly in a public place, or filming adults as they lip-synch to recordings of children speaking, she mixes and matches the elements of identity—those elements that we assume compose our selves, our most private selves—and makes them public in ways that confound personhood rather than cement it.”