The World in London is a major public art project initiated by The Photographers’ Gallery, to coincide with the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The project set out to commission 204 photographic portraits of 204 Londoners, each originating from one of the nations competing at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The portraits are exhibited as large-scale posters at two sites close to Olympic venues: on the external wall surrounding the BT London Live site in Victoria Park in East London, and across a city-block in Central London covering the façade of the new Park House development in Oxford Street.
The World in London explores portraiture and cultural diversity using photography, one of the most accessible and democratic artistic mediums of our times. The project celebrates London as a place where individuals from all walks of life and all parts of the world live side by side, each of them contributing to make London the unique city it is.
Dennis Morris: Judith Craig Morency-Nalus and Afrykah-Amaya Morency-Nalus, Haiti
Emerging photographers are shown alongside leading national and international artists, such as Faisal Adu'Allah (took the photograph for Benin), JH Engström (Georgia), Joakim Eskildsen (Czech Republic), Tom Wood (Barbados) and Catherine Yass (Hungary). Portrait workshops held in the lead-up to The World in London provided training and skills development for participants new to photography. These resulted in ten portraits featured as part of the project.
All of the photographers have been commissioned by The Photographers’ Gallery to take portraits of the sitters over the last three years. The image for Great Britain is a portrait of the late Alexander McQueen, the fashion designer legend who was photographed by American born photographer Andres Serrano in February 2009, a year before his untimely death.
To ensure its legacy, The World in London project, comprising a full set of portrait prints, along with supporting materials in the form of video, oral history and written interviews, will be donated to the Museum of London where it will form a part of the museum’s permanent collection.
Up until December 2012 when the donation will take place, The Photographers’ Gallery will continue its search for the final six sitters from the following Pacific countries: American Samoa, FS Micronesia, Guam, Marshall Islands, Nauru and Palau.
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said: 'As London welcomes the world for the 2012 Games, this timely exhibition encapsulates one of the most important things about the capital and what makes it a great world city. People drawn from every corner of the globe have brought talent, dynamism and a multitude of influences, which have contributed to our city's social success as well as its prosperity. It has also created unparalleled international links, so that when the Games begin on Friday, athletes from every nation will be cheered on by home-grown compatriots and supporters'.
Brett Rogers, Director of The Photographers’ Gallery said: 'As London’s premier institution for photography, we are proud to have initiated a project that engages with the cultural diversity of London at the same time as celebrating photography as one of the most powerful visual mediums of the 21st century.
Commissioning such a variety of photographers has offered us an unrivalled opportunity to highlight the creative potential of the portrait genre. Whether seen through the eyes of a celebrated figure or realized by an emerging talent, these portraits reflect an impressive array of approaches to photographing the human figure'.
Andrew Barnett, Director, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, UK said: 'These evocative portraits by first-class photographers, set against a backdrop of the world’s most multicultural city, together demonstrate the rich variety of cultures that makes London so distinctive: in keeping with the Foundation's ambitions to promote understanding and engagement in an often fractious world'.
Moira Sinclair, London Executive Director of Arts Council England, said: 'London has a long history of welcoming the world; creating an environment where new cultures meet and become part of the very fabric of the city. The World in London will tell some of those stories through the powerful medium of photography, and show that many people from different backgrounds can all be united under the title ‘Londoner’.
We are proud to support this project in what will be a very special Olympic year and look forward to seeing the works become part of the city landscape'.
In addition to the outdoor exhibitions, The World in London images are presented on a dedicated website (www.theworldinlondon.org.uk) offering access to the personal stories behind each portrait. The website also features on the BBC and Arts Council England's experimental arts media service and commissioning programme 'The Space'. A free schools resource has also been produced.
The World in London is supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and by Arts Council England and is part of the London 2012 Festival, the 12-week nationwide celebration running from 21 June until 9 September 2012, bringing together leading artists from across the world and the UK
Exhibition: The World in London
Victoria Park Dates: 27 July - 12 August 2012
Park House Dates: 27 July - 30 August 2012
Venues: Victoria Park, E3; 453 - 497 Oxford Street, London, W1
Website: theworldinlondon.org.uk. To be launched on 27 July 2012