A major new artwork by internationally recognised artist Catherine Yass has been unveiled today at the Supreme Court, commemorating 100 years of women in the legal profession.
Commissioned by Spark21, the charity managing the The First 100 Years campaign, and forming the centrepiece of courtroom 2, it features portraits of three female legal pioneers, including the first woman President of the Supreme Court Baroness Hale of Richmond DBE. A fourth image represents the future of women in law.
The artist has worked with archival photographic images as well as her own photography to create the work that documents both the progression of women in the law over 100 years and the development of photography in the same period. The four portraits, entitled Legacy, 2019, form part of a larger group composition, reflecting the nature of women’s emancipation movements globally.
Catherine Yass trained at the Slade School of Art in London, the Hochschüle der Künst in Berlin and Goldsmiths College, London. She is represented by Alison Jacques Gallery and known for her films and brightly coloured photographs, which have often depicted the people and institutions who commissioned, supported, or curated her work.
The artist was chosen through a competitive process and was judged by a panel that included Baroness Hale, President of the Supreme Court, Mark Ormerod, chief executive of the Supreme Court and Dana Denis-Smith and David Standish from Spark 21, the charity behind the First 100 Years project. The Contemporary Art Society acted as advisers to the judging panel and managed the commission.
Catherine Yass said: “Up until 1919 women were dismissed from entering the Law on the grounds they were not considered “persons”. 100 years later I hope that this commission shows that they were indeed “persons”. It has been a great privilege to be given this commission at such a crucial moment for women and for Britain. Recent events have shown how instrumental the Supreme Court is in safeguarding our rights and democracy. I hope that the commission will play a small part in representing and promoting the role that women can play in shaping law reform, and that it will encourage new and diverse lawyers whose values will in turn impact on our society. I am grateful to Baroness Hale, Spark21 and the Contemporary Art Society for making this commission possible. It has given me the opportunity to work alongside four pivotal and inspirational women, and through working with archival and new imagery has expanded my photographic practice as well as my understanding of the Law.”
Baroness Hale, President of the Supreme Court, said: “It is important that the story of women in the law can be shared with and understood by visitors to The Supreme Court. I hope that each of the women depicted – past, present and future – will be seen as a role model, especially by our younger visitors. The Supreme Court is enormously grateful to Spark21 for raising the funds for this new work of art.”
Fabienne Nicholas, Head of Consultancy at the Contemporary Art Society said: “We are delighted to have worked with Spark21 and the Supreme Court to realise such an important artwork. Catherine Yass is respected as one of the great British artists of her generation and her appointment lends the commission real gravitas. Her work for Courtroom Two is multi-faceted: it chronicles the evolution of photography over the past hundred years, the struggle for women’s emancipation in that same period, and histories and future of women working in the UK legal professions. As the first portraits of women to hang in the Supreme Court, Yass’ work is a welcome addition to the collection which will inspire a whole new generation of legal professionals.”
Dana Denis-Smith, trustee of Spark21 and founder of The First 100 Years said: “Pioneering women, including Baroness Hale, Rose Heilbron and Cornelia Sorabji have made staggering achievements in the legal field over the last 100 years. Now, for the first time, female legal pioneers are being celebrated and commemorated at The Supreme Court, the pinnacle of the legal justice system in the UK. The artwork sends a powerful message about the value of women’s contribution to the law and as we near the end of this centenary year and look to the future. We hope that its presence in the Supreme Court will inspire female lawyers for generations to come.”