Female artist to be the first to design a statue for Parliament Square

18th April 2017

The British conceptual artist Gillian Wearing will be the first woman to design and create a statue that will stand in Parliament Square in London. 

She was commissioned to make a monument of the suffragist Millicent Fawcett and the project was announced earlier this month by the mayor of London. 

The decision to have a woman represented in one of the UK’s most important public spaces recognising the nation's past achievements, was described as a “milestone” by Sadiq Khan. 

The Turner prize winner was endorsed by prime minister Theresa May, following the backing of a campaign launched last year by activist Caroline Criado-Perez.

In 2014, Ms Wearing produced a £100,000 bronze statue of an average family that now stands in Birmingham’s Centenary Square. 

Thrilled to be creating the monument, Ms Wearing said: “Millicent Fawcett was an incredible woman and by honouring her in Parliament Square I believe she will continue to inspire generations to come.”

Known across the country for her efforts, Millicent Fawcett led the constitutional campaign for women’s suffrage from 1866 to 1928. Her statue will stand fiercely among the nine statues of men in Parliament Square. 

The statues include those of Sir Robert Peel, Benjamin Disraeli, the Earl of Derby, Lord Palmerston, Field Marshal Jan Smuts, Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, who was added in 2014.

“It’s simply not right that nearly a century after women’s suffrage, Parliament Square is still a male-only zone, and I’m thrilled that this is soon to change thanks to Caroline’s inspired campaign,” said the mayor of London. 

“This will be an historic moment for Parliament Square, and it’s fitting that the statue will be created by a world-class artist of Gillian’s calibre.”

Ms Criado-Perez campaigned for almost a year to have the statue created, which included a petition that was signed by nearly 85,000 people. 

She said: “Women make up more than half the population – but from looking at our public spaces, you would never know that. Just 2.7 per cent of British statues are of named women, and even these are mostly royals.”

“It’s time to have our first statue by a female sculptor in Parliament Square and I’m thrilled that Gillian Wearing is going to be producing this historic artwork.”

The decision for Ms Wearing to create the statue came after much consideration by London’s deputy mayor for culture and creative industries, Justine Simons, gallery directors, curators, cultural leaders and campaigners. 

In 2018, the statue will be unveiled to the world, coinciding with centenary celebrations of women’s rights. 

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