Birmingham artist Gillian Wearing given top university honour

Gillian Wearing

The Birmingham artist behind an iconic sculpture housed in Centenary Square has been handed a top university honour – the first qualification she has collected from her home city.

Turner Prize winning Gillian Wearing has received an honorary doctorate from Birmingham City University on in recognition of her contribution to the arts.

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Birmingham City University

Wearing has been widely acclaimed for her work in conceptual art but today was the first time she has picked up an academic award from the second city, having left college without any qualifications.

In 2014 she created the ‘A Real Birmingham Family’ sculpture, which sits outside the Library of Birmingham in Centenary Square, having previously been famed for her work including ’60 Minutes Silence’ which won her the 1997 Turner Prize.

She collected her accolade alongside students from the University’s Faculty of Art, Design and Media during a ceremony held at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall.

She said: “I’ve never received anything like this before and it’s absolutely fantastic and a great honour to be here today.

“Being from Birmingham it’s actually the first time I’ve had any qualification from the city because I left college without any qualifications at all, so although this is an honorary award, it means an awful lot because it recognises my achievements.”

Wearing created the £100,000 ‘A Real Birmingham Family’ public artwork in 2014 to represent the diversity of modern families.

The sculpture, based on local sisters Emma and Roma Jones, depicts two single mothers alongside their children.

In 2011 she was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Honours list also recognising her contribution to the arts, while she has been nominated for the Human Rights Art Award (2015) and the Vincent Award (2014) over the last two years.

Speaking to students graduating in creative arts subjects, she said artists had to keep being passionate about their subjects and keep producing work during difficult times.

“Some people will be going into jobs in the area that they’ve been studying but for some other people they might have to take a job that’s unrelated to maybe pay their way to make their works.

Wearing’s other work includes a collection of photographs entitled ‘Broad Street’ showing teenagers drinking at several bars and clubs along Birmingham’s popular nightlife hub, to depict how alcohol contributes to the loss of inhibitions, insecurities and control. 

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