Gillian Wearing

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Gillian Wearing
Born 1963 (age 52–53)
Birmingham, England
Nationality British
Education Goldsmiths
Known for Conceptual art, installation art
Movement Young British Artists
Awards Turner Prize

Gillian Wearing OBE RA (born 1963) is an English conceptual artist, one of the Young British Artists, and winner of the annual British fine arts award, the Turner Prize, in 1997. In 2007 Wearing was elected as lifetime member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Wearing was born in Birmingham. She attended Dartmouth High School in Great Barr, Birmingham. She moved to Chelsea, London to study art at the Chelsea College of Art and squatted in Oval Mansions.[1]


In the early 1990s, Wearing started putting together photography exhibitions that were based around the idea of photographing anonymous strangers in the street who she had asked to hold up a piece of paper with a message on it. Of these "confessional" pieces, Wearing stated,

I decided that I wanted people to feel protected when they talked about certain things in their life that they wouldn’t want the public that knows them to know. I can understand that sort of holding on to things—it’s kind of part of British society to hold things in. I always think of Britain as being a place where you’re meant to keep your secrets—you should never tell your neighbors or tell anyone. Things are changing now, because the culture’s changed and the Internet has brought people out. We have Facebook and Twitter where people tell you small details of their life.[2]

One of Wearing's first UK shows was held at the Chisenhale Gallery in east London, in June 1997.

In 1997, Wearing won the Turner Prize and exhibited videos such as 60 minutes silence which is a video of 26 uniformed police officers, but at first appears to be a photograph. Wearing said, "The piece is about authority, restraint, and control." She also exhibited Sacha and Mum showing emotions between a mother and daughter. Wearing described the piece as, "Things can not be finalized—- as far as emotions are concerned. They’re always in turmoil and can go to two polar opposites." Cornelia Parker, Christine Borland and Angela Bulloch were the other shortlisted artists.[3]

In the late 1990s Wearing made a three-channel video called Drunk (1997-1999), for which she filmed a group of street drinkers who she had got to know outside her studio against the backdrop of a white photographic backdrop. The drinkers are shown in different scenes individually and in groups. They stagger around, fall over, bicker, fight, sleep and in the end scene one of the men stands against the backdrop and urinates.


In Wearing’s Broad Street (2001), she documents the behavior of typical teenagers, in British society, who go out at night and drink large amounts of alcohol. Wearing shows teenagers partying at various clubs and bars along Broad Street, Birmingham. Wearing follows these teenagers demonstrating how alcohol contributes to their loss of inhibitions, insecurities, and control.[4]

In 2003, Wearing caused controversy with her cover for The Guardian's G2 supplement, consisting solely of the handwritten words "Fuck Cilla Black".[5] The cover illustrated an article by Stuart Jeffries complaining about the cruelty of modern television.

The themes of modern television were further explored in Wearing's project Family History (2006) commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella, and accompanied by a publication on the project.


Wearing's 2010 show People (2005–2011) at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery included work ranging from video, to photographic portraiture, to installation and sculpture. Snapshot (2005) is a series of seven single-projection videos framed by a candy-colored array of plasma screens, each depicting different stages of the female life cycle—from the innocence of early childhood to old age.[6]

Wearing was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to art.[7]

In 2012, a major retrospective of her work was held at Whitechapel Gallery, London (March-June 2012), which surveyed her career and premiered new films and sculptures. The exhibition was organised with Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf and supported by Maja Hoffmann, Vicky Hughes and John Smith, and Dr Naomi Milgrom AO. An accompanying monograph was published by Ridinghouse and included texts by curator Daniel Herrmann, Doris Krystof, Bernhart Schwenk and David Deamer.[8]

In 2013, Wearing showed her exhibit People: Selected Parkett Artists' Editions from 1984–2013 Parkett Space, Zurich, Switzerland (9 February-11 March 2013)[9]

On 30 October 2014 her sculpture A Real Birmingham Family was unveiled in front of the Library of Birmingham.[10]


Personal life[edit]

Wearing lives and works in London with her partner, British artist, Michael Landy..[12]


  1. ^ Myers, Ben. "Criminalising squatters will hurt British pop music". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Corwin, William. (September 2012). 'In Conversation: Gillian Wearing with William Corwin' Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  3. ^ Flannery, M. & Preece, R.J. (1998).'Turner Prize 1997: Generating art debate'. World Sculpture News, 4(1), 28-30. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  4. ^ Martin, Sylvia: "Broad Street", Video Art, page 94. Taschen, 2006.
  5. ^ Katz, Ian. (8 January 2003). "Were we right to do this?". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  6. ^ Rooney, Kara L. (June 2011). "Gillian Wearing: People". The Brooklyn Rail. 
  7. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59808. p. 13. 11 June 2011.
  8. ^ "Gillian Wearing monograph". Ridinghouse. 
  9. ^ Gillian Wearing Biography.
  10. ^ Tyler, Jane (2014-10-30). "Library of Birmingham statue unveiling: Two mums immortalised in 'ordinary' family sculpture". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 3 November 2014. 
  11. ^ "Birmingham artist Gillian Wearing given top university honour" Birmingham City University. Accessed 7 October 2016
  12. ^ Rachel Campbell-Johnston (7 October 2008). "Michael Landy – the man who had nothing". London: The Times. Retrieved 22 October 2008. 

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