Traditionalists look away: Gillian Wearing unveils subjects for Birmingham Family sculpture

By Mark Sheerin | 28 August 2013

The family chosen for a new sculpture to represent Birmingham is to feature two mixed-race sisters and the two boys they are raising on their own. The foursome offers youth, refreshing change and pleasing symmetry.

Colour photo of two sisters holding two young boys
© Jas Sansi
They may not be nuclear, but together Roma and Emma, plus infant sons, form a strong unit and a compelling image for life in the UK’s vibrant and multicultural second city.

“We feel truly amazed and honoured to be chosen to represent what it means to be a family in Birmingham,” they say.

“We feel it highlights that family is an indestructible bond between people that is universal and it doesn’t matter how it is made up or what it looks like.”

That is surely true, but soon the bond tying these four family members together will be at least as strong as the bronze with which artist Gillian Wearing is planning to sculpt her ‘Real Birmingham Family’.

The result will take its place alongside royalty and captains of industry in Centenary Square in front of Birmingham’s new library. Fundraising is already underway for the £100,000 needed for the work’s fabrication.

Roma and Emma were the unanimous choice of a nine-person panel, including the artist and Jonathan Watkins, Director of Ikon Gallery, who have led the project. Some 372 families put themselves forward to be immortalised.

But if, as someone once said, all happy families are alike, on the evidence of the pictures there couldn’t have been a better choice.

Visit Mark Sheerin's contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.

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