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Cornelia Parker

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Cornelia Parker
Parker in 2023
Born (1956-07-14) 14 July 1956 (age 67)
Cheshire, England
EducationGloucestershire College of Art and Design
Wolverhampton Polytechnic
University of Reading
Known forConceptual art, installation art, sculpture
Notable workCold, Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991)
The Maybe (1995)

Cornelia Ann Parker CBE RA (born 14 July 1956[1]) is an English visual artist, best known for her sculpture and installation art.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Parker was born in 1956 in Cheshire, England.[2] She studied at the Gloucestershire College of Art and Design (1974–75) and Wolverhampton Polytechnic (1975–78).[2] She received her MFA from Reading University in 1982 and honorary doctorates from the University of Wolverhampton in 2000, the University of Birmingham (2005), the University of Gloucestershire (2008) and the University of Manchester (2017).

In 1997, Parker was shortlisted for the Turner Prize along with Christine Borland, Angela Bulloch, and Gillian Wearing (who won the prize).[3] She was Honorary Professor at the University of Manchester 2015-2018 and between 2016 and 2019 was Visiting Fellow[4] at Lady Margaret Hall[5] Oxford. She was appointed Honorary Fellow at Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 2020.[6]

Parker has one daughter, and lives and works in London. Parker's mother was German and was a nurse in the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. Her British grandfather fought in the Battle of the Somme in the First World War.

Cornelia Parker's first solo museum exhibition was at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston in 2000.[7] In 2019 she had a survey exhibition at MCA Sydney.[8] A major survey exhibition of her work opened at Tate Britain in May 2022.[9]


The Distance (A Kiss With String Attached), 2003

Parker is best known for large-scale installations such as Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) – first shown at the Chisenhale Gallery in Bow, East London[10] – for which she had a garden shed blown up by the British Army and suspended the fragments as if suspending the explosion process in time. In the centre was a light which cast the shadows of the wood dramatically on the walls of the room.[11] This inspired an orchestral composition of the same name by Joo Yeon Sir.

In contrast, in 1997 at the Turner Prize exhibition, Parker exhibited Mass (Colder Darker Matter) (1997), suspending the charred remains of a church that had been struck by lightning in Texas. Eight years later, Parker made a companion piece "Anti-Mass" (2005), using charcoal from a black congregation church in Kentucky, which had been destroyed by arson. Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson) (1999) is another example of Parker's suspended sculptures, featuring charred remains of an actual case of suspected arson.[12]

The Maybe (1995) at the Serpentine Gallery, London, was a performance piece conceived by Tilda Swinton, who lay, apparently asleep, inside a vitrine. She asked Parker to collaborate with her on the project, and to create an installation in which she could sleep. Swinton's original idea was to lie in state as Snow White in a glass coffin, but through the collaboration with Parker the idea evolved into her appearing as herself and not as an actor posing as a fictional character. Parker filled the Serpentine with glass cases containing relics that belonged to famous historical figures, such as the pillow and blanket from Freud's couch, Mrs. Simpson's ice skates, Charles Dickens' quill pen and Queen Victoria's stocking.[13] A version of the piece was later re-performed in Rome (1996) and then MoMA, New York (2013) without Parker's involvement.

Avoided Object is an ongoing series of smaller works which have been developed in liaison with various institutions, including the Royal Armouries, British Police Forces, Colt Firearms and Madame Tussauds.

Parker has made other interventions involving historical artworks. In 1998 in her solo show at the Serpentine Gallery she exhibited the backs of Turner paintings (Room for Margins[14]) as works in their own right, she wrapped Rodin's The Kiss sculpture in Tate Britain with a mile of string (2003)[15] as her contribution to the 2003 Tate Triennial Days Like These at Tate Britain. The intervention was titled The Distance (A Kiss With String Attached). She re-staged this piece as part of her mid-career retrospective at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, in 2015 and at Tate Britain in 2022.

Subconscious of a Monument (2005) is composed of fragments of dry soil, which are suspended on wires from the gallery ceiling. These lumps are the now-desiccated clay which was removed from beneath the Leaning Tower of Pisa in order to prevent its collapse.[16]

Embryo Firearms, 1995. Colt 45 guns in the earliest stage of production

These "avoided" objects have often had their identities transformed by being burned, shot, squashed, stretched, drawn, exploded, cut, or simply dropped off cliffs. Cartoon deaths have long held a fascination for Parker: "Tom being run over by a steamroller or Jerry riddled with bullet holes. Sometimes the object's demise has been orchestrated, or it may have occurred accidentally or by natural causes. They might be 'preempted' objects that have not yet achieved a fully formed identity, having been plucked prematurely from the production line like Embryo Firearms 1995. They may not even be classified as objects: things like cracks, creases, shadows, dust or dirt The Negative of Whispers 1997: Earplugs made with fluff gathered in the Whispering Gallery, St Paul's Cathedral). Or they might be those territories you want to avoid psychologically, such as the backs, underbellies or tarnished surfaces of things."[citation needed]

Another example of this work is Pornographic Drawings (1997), using ink made by the artist who used solvent to dissolve (pornographic) video tape, confiscated by HM Customs and Excise.[17]

I resurrect things that have been killed off... My work is all about the potential of materials — even when it looks like they've lost all possibilities.[17]

In 2009, for the opening of Jupiter Artland, a sculpture park near Edinburgh, Parker created a firework display titled Nocturne: A Moon Landing containing a lunar meteorite. Therefore, the moon "landed on Jupiter". The following year Parker made Landscape with Gun and Tree for Jupiter Artland, a nine-metre-tall cast iron and Corten steel shotgun leaning against a tree. It was inspired by the painting Mr and Mrs Andrews by Thomas Gainsborough, where Mr Andrews poses with a gun slung over his arm. The shotgun used in the piece is a facsimile of the one owned by Robert Wilson, one of the founders of Jupiter Artland.

Folkestone Harbour Mermaid

For the Folkestone Triennial in 2011, Parker created The Folkestone Mermaid, her version of one of the popular tourist attractions in Copenhagen, The Little Mermaid. Through a process of open submission, Parker chose Georgina Baker, 38 year old mother of two, Folkestone born and bred. Unlike the idealised Copenhagen version, this is a life-size, life-cast sculpture, celebrating womankind.[18]

The top-left corner of Magna Carta (An Embroidery)

To celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, Parker created Magna Carta (An Embroidery), a hand-embroidered representation of the Wikipedia article Magna Carta as it was on 15 June 2014, completed in 2015.[19] Embroiderers included members of the Embroiderers Guild, HM prisoners, Peers, MP's, judges, human rights lawyers, a US ambassador and his staff, and various public figures including Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Jimmy Wales, Jarvis Cocker and Doreen Lawrence.

Whilst Magna Carta (An Embroidery) was on display at the British Library, Parker presented One More Time,[20] a Terrace Wires commission for St Pancras International Station, London, co-presented by HS1 Ltd. and the Royal Academy of Arts.

In 2016 Parker became the first female artist to be commissioned to create a new work for the Roof Garden of the Met in New York. Transitional Object (PsychoBarn)[21] is a scaled-down replica of the house from the 1960 Hitchcock film “Psycho” and was constructed using a salvaged red barn.

Parker continued her work as a curator for the Found exhibition[22] for The Foundling Museum, which incorporated sixty-eight artists from an array of creative disciplines, as well as contributing her own piece, A Little Drop of Gin. This limited-edition print, nicknamed 'mother's ruin', was a photogravure using a 1750s gin glass and droppings of gin. Parker was named Artist of the Year in the 2016 Apollo Awards for her involvement and contributions in the art world.

Parker appeared in the BBC Four television series What Do Artists Do All Day?, a BBC Scotland production, first broadcast in 2013. In the programme she talks about her life and work.[23] In May 2015, Parker was included in the Brilliant Ideas series broadcast by Bloomberg TV in which she reveals her inspirations and discusses some of her best-loved works.[24] In summer 2016, BBC One broadcast "Danger! Cornelia Parker" as part of the TV series Imagine.[25] In autumn 2016 she was included in Gaga for Dada, a programme to mark the 100th anniversary of Dada, presented by Vic Reeves.[26] She also contributed to the BBC Four production Bricks! broadcast on 21 September 2016, marking the 40th anniversary of Carl Andre's sculpture Equivalent VIII, better known as 'The Tate Bricks'.

On 1 May 2017 Parker was chosen as the official election artist for the 2017 United Kingdom general election; she was the first woman to take on that role.[27][28]

In 2017, Parker made a series of blackboard drawings with the collaboration of 5- to 10-year-old schoolchildren from Torriano Primary School. The children were asked by the artist to copy out news headlines collected from various UK and US newspapers. 'At that age, children have a barely formed view of the news and world affairs - they don't yet have a vote, but the political turmoil unfolding in their young lives will have a profound effect on their futures'.[29]

In November 2019 Parker opened her first major retrospective exhibition in Australia at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney for the Tenth Sydney International Art Series.[30]

In May 2022 Parkerexhibited 100 artworks at Tate Britain in her largest solo exhibition to date. She showed several of her films, Chomskian Abstract 2007, Made in Bethlehem 2012, War Machine 2015, American Gothic 2016, Left, Right & Centre 2017,[31] Election Abstract 2018, Thatcher’s Finger 2018 and Flag 2022

In May 2023, her photograph "Snap" was used as the cover artwork for the Peter Gabriel song "Four Kinds of Horses".

In November 2024, Parker's glass rendition of the chandelier featured in Van Eyck's The Arnolfini Portrait was suspended in the Procuratie Vecchie in St Mark's Square, Venice.[32] This work was created as part of Murano Illumina il Mondo (“Murano Lights Up the World”) and was the first time in living memory that artworks were permitted to be displayed in the colonnade


In 2011 Parker curated an exhibition titled Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain for the Collections Gallery at the Whitechapel Gallery in London using selected works from the Government Art Collection arranged as a colour spectrum.

For the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2014, Parker curated the Black and White Room which included a number of well-known artists who she thought should be future Royal Academicians.

In 2016, as part of her Hogarth Fellowship at the Foundling Museum, Parker curated a group exhibition titled FOUND[33] presenting works from over sixty artists from a range of creative disciplines, asked to respond to the theme of ‘found’, reflecting on the museum's heritage.

Honours and recognition[edit]

In 2010 Parker was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts, London and appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours.[34] In 2000, 2005 and 2008 and 2017 she received Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Wolverhampton, Birmingham, and Gloucestershire and Manchester respectively.

Parker won the Artist of the Year[35] Apollo Award in 2016. Other shortlisted artists were Carmen Herrera, David Hockney, Ragnar Kjartansson, Jannis Kounellis and Helen Marten.

Parker was named the official Election Artist[36] for the 2017 general election in the United Kingdom. In this role she observed the election campaign leading up to the vote on 8 June, and was required to produce a piece of art in response. Parker created two films and a series of 14 photographic works as a result of this commission, which were previewed on BBC Newsnight on 2 February 2018[37] and made available online via the UK Parliament website[38] prior to an exhibition in Westminster Hall.

She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2022 Birthday Honours for services to the arts.[39]


In politics, prior to the 2015 general election, she was one of several celebrities who endorsed the parliamentary candidacy of the Green Party's Caroline Lucas.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cornelia Parker Biography, Life & Quotes". The Art Story. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  2. ^ a b c "Cornelia Parker RA", Royal Academy, Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  3. ^ "Turner Prize 1997", Tate Britain, Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  4. ^ "Visiting Fellows (2016 - 2019)". Lady Margaret Hall.
  5. ^ "Artist Cornelia Parker in conversation with Alan Rusbridger". Archived from the original on 22 December 2021 – via www.youtube.com.
  6. ^ "Eight new Fellows join Trinity Hall". Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Retrieved 8 June 2021.
  7. ^ "Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson) | icaboston.org". www.icaboston.org. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  8. ^ "Cornelia Parker | MCA Australia". www.mca.com.au. Retrieved 13 March 2024.
  9. ^ "Cornelia Parker | Tate". Tate. Retrieved 19 May 2022.
  10. ^ "Cornelia Parker: Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View". Chisenhale Gallery. Archived from the original on 5 March 2018. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  11. ^ "Cold Dark Matter:an Exploded View" Tate Gallery interactive site Archived 2014-02-02 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved March 20, 2006
  12. ^ "Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson) | icaboston.org". www.icaboston.org. Retrieved 2021-04-20.
  13. ^ "Teddy Award - The official queer award at the Berlin International Film Festival". www.teddyaward.tv.
  14. ^ Tate. "'Room for Margins', Cornelia Parker CBE RA, 1998". Tate. Retrieved 13 March 2024.
  15. ^ Fenton, James (8 March 2003). "No strings attached". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 10 February 2009.
  16. ^ Cornelia Parker: Subconscious Of A Monument, 21 September 2005 – 25 October 2005 Archived 6 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine Frith Street Gallery, London.
  17. ^ a b "Pornographic Drawings, 1997". artseensoho.com. Archived from the original on 2 September 2019. Retrieved 20 March 2006.
  18. ^ Cornelia Parker Archived 2012-08-08 at the Wayback Machine Folkestone Triennial 2011, 25 June – 25 September 2011.
  19. ^ Merrill, Jamie (14 May 2015). "Sculptor uses unveiling of Magna Carta artwork to attack Tory plans to scrap Human Rights Act". The Independent.
  20. ^ Jury, Louise. "St Pancras goes on double time with new Cornelia Parker clock sculpture". Evening Standard. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  21. ^ Loos, Ted. "At the Met's Roof Garden, Raising a 'PsychoBarn'". New York Times. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  22. ^ "FOUND". Foundling Museum.
  23. ^ "What Do Artists Do All Day? - Cornelia Parker". BBC. Retrieved 19 May 2022.
  24. ^ "Brilliant Ideas: Sculptor and Artist Cornelia Parker". Bloomberg. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  25. ^ "DANGER! Cornelia Parker, Summer 2016, imagine... - BBC One". BBC.
  26. ^ "Gaga for Dada: The Original Art Rebels - BBC Four". BBC.
  27. ^ "Sculptor Cornelia Parker named as 2017 election artist". BBC News. 1 May 2017.
  28. ^ "Cornelia Parker Named Official Artist for the UK's Forgone-Conclusion Election - artnet news". 1 May 2017.
  29. ^ "News at Eight (Make the Moon Great Again)". Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  30. ^ "MCA announces major exhibition by British artist Cornelia Parker | MCA Australia". www.mca.com.au. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  31. ^ 'Left Right & Centre' by Cornelia Parker, retrieved 13 March 2024
  32. ^ "Twelve chandeliers of Christmas: artists and glassmakers light up Venice". www.ft.com. Retrieved 13 March 2024.
  33. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (25 May 2016). "Found art: Cornelia Parker and Jarvis Cocker share their spoils". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  34. ^ "No. 59446". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2010. p. 12.
  35. ^ Stevens, Isabel (24 November 2016). "Cornelia Parker". Apollo Magazine. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  36. ^ "Sculptor Cornelia Parker named as 2017 election artist". BBC News. May 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  37. ^ "Newsnight - excerpt from broadcast". YouTube. Archived from the original on 22 December 2021. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  38. ^ "2018 Cornelia Parker's General Election artworks unveiled". Art in Parliament. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  39. ^ "No. 63714". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 June 2022. p. B10.
  40. ^ Elgot, Jessica (24 April 2015). "Celebrities sign statement of support for Caroline Lucas – but not the Greens". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 July 2015.

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