Collection Artwork
Gillian Wearing (born Birmingham, United Kingdom, 1963)
Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say. WICKED AND WILD!
1992-1993
chromogenic print mounted on aluminum
panel size: 16 5/8 x 11 7/8 in.
panel size: 16 5/8 x 11 7/8 in.
Gift of Peter Norton
2015.26.27
unique AP

Object Label

Three individuals hold handwritten signs that display their personal thoughts during the early 1990s economic decline in Great Britain.

Engaging with a stereotype that British people are unsociable and hostile toward people they don’t know, Gillian Wearing approached more than 500 strangers on the streets of South London. She asked them to write on blank cards the first thought or opinion that came to mind. Thoughts included funny, confessional, sentimental, witty, and scary messages, suggesting that random meetings can lead to revelatory communication and engagement. Through this project, Wearing dissociates people’s private lives from their public personas and celebrates their individuality.

—Ali Vassiliou ’23, Curatorial Intern

From the exhibition: Where Words Falter: Art and Empathy (July 9 – December 18, 2022)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.
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