Mark Wallinger, ‘Royal Ascot’, 1994, The Seoul Museum of Art

Mark Wallinger’s playful artworks explore and unpick fixed notions of identity, often choosing Britain’s enduring preoccupation with hierarchy and social class as a point of departure to comment upon the traditions, mythologies and rituals that inform national consciousness. Royal Ascot, one of the most famous and exclusive horse races in the world, takes place every year in England and is renowned for its royal pageantry and tradition. Founded by Queen Anne in the 17th Century, Royal Ascot remains deeply associated with aristocracy and class privilege. Here, status is not simply based on the logic of capital, but is also expressed through the hierarchies of family lineage, profession and cultural capital. Thoroughbred racehorses, with their attendant associations with ‘good breeding’, provide the perfect foil for Wallinger to critique Britain’s obsession with the social pecking order. The artist takes TV broadcasts of the Royal Family attending the sporting event, shot over four consecutive days, and displays the footage on four monitors. The glamorous entrance parade begins to look ridiculous, as the same gestures are repeated over and over whilst the national anthem God Save the Queen continues to play in the background. Through repetition, the artist draws attention to the artificiality of the splendor and ostentation accompanying this royal occasion, and his acerbic view on the social structure and class system in British society.

Image rights: Courtesy the British Council Collection

About Mark Wallinger

Refusing to adopt a signature style, Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger produces work that addresses his ongoing preoccupation with, in his words, “the politics of representation and the representation of politics.” He references British history, class, politics, and iconic works of art in his paintings, sculptures, videos, and installations. In State Britain (2006), for example, he recreated the public encampment of peace protester Brian Haw and installed it at Tate Britain, challenging what he views as the erosion of freedom of expression and civil liberties in his country.

British, b. 1959, Chigwell, UK, based in London, United Kingdom