15 years since his video installations won him a Turner Prize, the artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen celebrated winning the Best Picture Oscar for 12 Years a Slave
Speaking at the Los Angeles ceremony, McQueen - also the first black director ever to win the Best Picture award - thanked his cast and crew, the ‘powerful’ women in his life, and dedicated his award to the many millions still in slavery.
‘Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live…I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery. And the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today,’ he said.
Adapted from a book by Solomon Northup, the harrowing story of slavery – which also picked up the Supporting Actress award for the first-time Kenyan actress, Lupita Nyong’o – is McQueen’s third feature film, following his acclaimed debut with Hunger in 2008 and Shame in 2011. Brad Pitt, one of the stars of 12 Years, praised his director as he stood with him on stage: ‘We all get to stand up here tonight because of one man who brought us all together to tell that story. And that is the indomitable Mr. Steve McQueen.’
But unlike his fellow Oscar winners, McQueen has the added kudos of having already won the most prestigious prize in British art 15 years earlier.
Trained at Goldsmiths, McQueen won 1999’s Turner Prize for an exhibition at the ICA featuring two film pieces; Deadpan, in which he remakes a famous Buster Keaton sequence, and Drumroll, the journey of a barrell being rolled through the streets of Manhattan. The jury admired ‘the poetry and clarity of his vision, the range of his work, its emotional intensity and economy of means’.
McQueen is not the first British artist to venture into Hollywood, however. Sam Taylor-Wood – a fellow Goldsmiths graduate just a few years ahead of McQueen – was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1998, before moving on to direct feature films including 2009’s story of John Lennon’s teenage years, Nowhere Boy and the upcoming 50 Shades of Grey. The Bradford-born artist Clio Barnard, who started out making short films for galleries including Tate Modern and New York’s MoMA, scored Bafta nominations for both her dramatised documentary, The Arbor in 2010 and for her most recent feature film, The Selfish Giant. Gillian Wearing’s Self Made (2011), Andrew Kötting’s Swandown (2012) and Ben Rivers’ Two Years at Sea (2012) are all films by artists which screened on general release in our cinemas.