How WWI enriched contemporary art

More than 35m people, half the population, have engaged with the 14-18 NOW commemorations of the First World War, which has now ended after five years.

Eight million of them were young people attracted by the 125 projects commissioned from artists including Rachel Whiteread, Peter Jackson, Gillian Wearing, Danny Boyle, Peter Blake, Shobana Jeyasingh, Jeremy Deller, Akram Khan and Susan Philipsz.

Main image shows Jeremy Deller’sWe’re here because we’re here, in Waterloo Station.“Contemporary artists brought history to life, helping us to see the First World War anew and think again” said the organisation’s director, Jenny Waldman. “Through 14-18 NOW the UK commemorated the centenary through the work of extraordinary artists, touching millions of people emotionally.”

14-18 NOW was set up in 2013 to bring a creative response to the centenary of the First World War, and to do so created a new way of marking major national moments through the arts, commissioning artists to create works that respond to different aspects of the war.More than 420 artists from 40 countries created artworks in 220 locations across the UK, delivered with 600 partners including arts, heritage and community organisations. 67% of the 14-18 NOW programme was free to the public.



Lasting works of art commissioned in the scheme include the Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament Square by Gillian Wearing, Rachel Whiteread’s Nissen Hut in Dalby Forest and Peter Jackson’s film They Shall Not Grow Old, as well as multiple books, plays, operas, music compositions, dance works and other public artworks. 
Participatory projects that have made the biggest impression on the public include Jeremy Deller’s We're here because we’re here,  Artichoke’s PROCESSIONS, Letter to an Unknown Soldier in which schoolchildren wrote to dead casualties of the conflict, the Poppies tour by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper (above, in Yorkshire Sculpture Park, credit Getty Images) and Danny Boyle’s Pages of the Sea.

Over 3.9 million people watched Peter Jackson’s film They Shall Not Grow Old on BBC2, with 94% of those who saw the film agreeing that it had an emotional impact.

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