Stamp tribute to Iraq fallen comes to the West Midlands

  • 9 July 2009

An artwork commemorating British service men and women killed in Iraq, including several from the West Midlands, is being brought to Wolverhampton Art Gallery by The Art Fund, the UK's leading independent art charity. Queen and Country will be on display in Wolverhampton from Saturday 18 July to Saturday 26 September 2009.

Created by official war artist Steve McQueen, who is currently representing Britain at the Venice Biennale, the artwork is a collaboration with families whose loved ones have lost their lives in Iraq. Queen and Country consists of a large oak cabinet with vertical drawers containing 155 facsimile postage stamp sheets. Each sheet is dedicated to a fallen member of the Armed Forces and features a photographic portrait chosen by their family.

Until the stamps are officially issued by Royal Mail, McQueen considers Queen and Country incomplete. The Art Fund brings the work to Wolverhampton as part of the campaign to gain public support for the stamps. Visitors to the gallery will be invited to sign The Art Fund’s online petition urging Royal Mail to issue the stamps. The petition can be found at www.artfund.org/queenandcountry and has so far gathered the support of nearly 19,000 people.

The work includes the image of 26 year old Private Leon Spicer from Tamworth who served with the Staffordshire Regiment. He was killed along with two other British Service Personnel by a roadside bomb whilst serving in Iraq on July 16 2005.

Leon Spicer’s mother, Mrs Bridie Spicer, said: ""We think Queen and Country is a wonderful tribute to our son and all the service personnel who have lost their lives. Real stamps should be issued to recognise the sacrifice they have made; they should never be forgotten. We would love to see the stamps produced in our lifetime, what greater honour could we wish for our son?"

Andrew Macdonald, Acting Director of The Art Fund, says: "Bringing Queen and Country to Wolverhampton Art Gallery is an opportunity for people to see first hand this moving yet deceptively simple work of art that reminds us of the enormous sacrifices made by British servicemen and women in Iraq.  We hope that visitors will express their support for the campaign by signing The Art Fund’s petition to see these images issued as official stamps."

Corinne Miller, Head of Arts + Museums provides a personal observation: "When my grandfather died I discovered, among his possessions, a photograph taken of him on active service in Iraq – the date 1917.  I also have one of my father in Basra while serving with the RAF in 1952.  These have brought home to me the involvement of my own family with Iraq.  Shown in Liverpool last year, as part of the Capital of Culture programme, Queen and Country is an extraordinary, powerful elegy to those who will not come home this summer.  It reminds us of the cost of conflict, lest we forget.  Wolverhampton is widely acknowledged to have one of the best collections of contemporary art which engages with social issues and we are delighted to have been selected to host this installation as our troops return home."

Steve McQueen was born in London in 1969. He won the Turner Prize in 1999 and was awarded an OBE in 2002. His first feature film Hunger won the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 and the Carl Foreman Award at the 2009 BAFTAs. He is currently representing Britain at the 53rd Venice Biennale with his new film Giardini.

Ends

Press contacts:

Lizzie Bloom at lbloom@artfund.org, 0207 225 4888 or

07912 777761 (out of hours), for enquiries regarding the campaign, artwork and family involvement.

Zoe Papiernik at zoe.papiernik@wolverhampton.gov.uk or 01902 552040, for enquiries regarding the exhibition at Wolverhampton.

Notes to editors:

1. For details of the tour, and to sign The Art Fund petition, please visit www.artfund.org/queenandcountry

2. Steve McQueen was commissioned by The Imperial War Museum and Manchester International Festival to respond to the conflict in Iraq.

3. Queen and Country is part of the Imperial War Museum’s permanent collection, following its presentation by The Art Fund in November 2007 with a full grant of £60,000. 4. The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art. 5. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections.6. Recent achievements include: helping secure Titian’s Diana and Actaeon for the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Gallery, London in February 2009 with a grant of £1 million; helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK.7. For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit www.artfund.org

8. Wolverhampton Art Gallery Lichfield Street Wolverhampton WV1 1DU. Open Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm. Free Entry. For directions go to www.wolverhamptonart.org.uk

9. Wolverhampton Art Gallery is part of Wolverhampton Arts & Museums service, publically funded by Wolverhampton City Council. It receives additional funding as a Regularly Funded Organisation of Arts Council England and from the Museums, Libraries Archives Council through Renaissance in the Regions, West Midlands. 10. Wolverhampton Art Gallery displays both historic Georgian and Victorian art collections in addition to significant collections of 20th and 21st Century art. Wolverhampton’s collection of 21st Century art continues to grow and to prove that art can be a powerful voice in today’s society, addressing issues of war, race, gender, civil conflict and liberties and national identity. Work by British artists reflects the political and social climate of contemporary Britain. Equally important are artworks by international artists who comment on global issues. Highlights of the 20th Century collection include The Northern Ireland Collection, relating to the modern phase of the conflict in Northern Ireland. The collection was established in the 1980s and represents both Irish and British artists.

The Art Fund is a Registered Charity No. 209174