The iconic poppy sculpture will be taking up permanent residence at the Imperial War Museum North.
We all remember the day we saw the cascade of poppies seemingly spilling from the Tower of London to gradually flood its surrounding moat in a blanket of red. The sweeping sculpture, titled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, consisted of 888,246 ceramic poppies, each representing a British or colonial life lost at the Front during World War One. After its memorable debut in 2014, the artwork was broken down into smaller sections named Poppies: Wave and Weeping Window. They were exhibited at sites such as Lincoln Castle, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and, in 2018, here at IWM North.
This Autumn the poppies will return to the city in a new form: cascading down the interior of the cloud-piercing Air Shard. The impactful artwork is set to open on November 10th, as part of Remembrance events.
Laura Clouting, senior curator historian in the First World War and Early 20th Century team at IWM, said “It feels really fitting to have the poppies return and make their home at IWM North. IWM was founded over a century ago amidst the First World War to ensure that we never forget the human cost of war. This sculpture, both an artwork and a piece of social history, will provide visitors with the opportunity to consider these consequences of war afresh.”
The poppy has become a symbol of remembrance since the war due to its significance on the battlegrounds of the Western Front. The bold flower persisted among the destruction; flourishing in the thousands to become a bright field of red on previously barren and destroyed lands. This was seen by a Canadian doctor and soldier, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, who went on to pen the famous poem, ‘In Flanders Fields’. The moving piece inspired American academic Moina Michael to campaign for it to become the official symbol of remembrance and the rest is history.
The original concept was created by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper during the First World War Centenary between 2015 and 2018. Every ceramic poppy was handcrafted and unique, made by over 300 people over the course of a year, sprayed red and then counted. They were then counted again by the Beefeaters at the Tower as it was vital every lost life was represented. Over five million people visited the installation.