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Steven Rodney "Steve" McQueen CBE (born 1969) is a London-born artist and filmmaker. He is a winner of the Caméra d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, a Turner Prize and BAFTA.
Born in London and of Grenadian descent, McQueen grew up in West London and went to Drayton Manor High School. He was a keen footballer, turning out for the St. Georges Colts football team. He did an A level art at Hammersmith and West London College, then studied art and design at Chelsea College of Art and Design and then fine art at Goldsmiths College where he first became interested in film. He left Goldsmiths in 1993 and then studied briefly at the Tisch School in New York City after winning a place there. He found the approach there too stifling and not experimental enough for him, however, complaining that "they wouldn't let you throw the camera up in the air".
Bear (1993) was McQueen's first major film, presented at the Royal College of Art in London. Although not an overtly political piece, for many it raised rather sensitive issues on race, homoeroticism and violence. It shows a wrestling match between two men who alternate ambiguous relations and gestures of aggression and erotic attraction. The film's protagonists, one of them McQueen, are both black, but issues of race, he has said, are not a priority in his work. Like all McQueen's early films, Bear is black and white. It was shot on 16mm film.
Five Easy Pieces (1995) is a short film by McQueen, and it literally follows a woman across a tightrope; himself stating the idea that a tightrope walker is "the perfect image of a combination of vulnerability and strength."
Just Above My Head (1996) is a short film which shares close ties with McQueen's preceding film with the key theme of walking. A man - played by McQueen - is shot in a way as so as to crop out his body, but his head appears small at the image's bottom, rising and falling with his step and coming in and out of frame according to the movement of the camera. As stated by David Frankel, the "simultaneous fragility and persistence" is seemingly meant as a metaphor for black life in England as elsewhere.
Exodus (1997) is a sixty-five-second color video which takes the title of a record by Bob Marley as its starting point. It records a found event, two black men carrying potted palms, the greenery waving precariously above their heads, whom McQueen followed down a London street. Then they get on a bus and leave.
McQueen's films as an artist were typically projected onto one or more walls of an enclosed space in an art gallery, and often in black and white and minimalist. He has cited the influence of the nouvelle vague and the films of Andy Warhol. He often appeared in the films himself.
McQueen has also made sculptures such as White Elephant (1998) and photographs.
He won the Turner Prize in 1999, although much of the publicity went to Tracey Emin, who was also a nominee.
In 2006, he went to Iraq as an official war artist. The following year he presented Queen and Country, a piece which commemorated the deaths of British soldiers who died in the Iraq War by presenting their portraits as a sheet of stamps.
McQueen represented Britain at the 2009 Venice Biennale.
Steve McQueen lives and works in Amsterdam and London. Already an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to the visual arts.
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