Steve McQueen: Lynching Tree

Free admission

Across a diverse body of work spanning thirty years, Black British artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen (b. 1969, London) has documented stories of incarceration and violence, intimacy and vulnerability. On October 28 and 29, the Yale Center for British Art will convene an international symposium that investigates the range of McQueen's artistic and film practice. To coincide with and precede the program, a single work by the artist will be on view.

Lynching Tree (2013) is a color photograph mounted in a lightbox that depicts an old tree with thick, sprawling branches. The tree stands in a clearing littered with leaves and grass and is surrounded by bushes and scrawny saplings. Only the title of the image reveals the horror of this apparently pastoral scene. The tree was used as a gallows for enslaved Black people; the unmarked graves of victims lie beneath it. 

McQueen took the photograph on the outskirts of New Orleans in 2012, at one of the filming locations for 12 Years a Slave (2013). In the film, Solomon Northup passes by the tree, knowing that he easily could have been one of the two young men whose murder he witnesses. In Lynching Tree, McQueen memorializes the lives and deaths of Black people in the antebellum South. Like many landscape paintings in the YCBA collection, the photograph simultaneously reveals and obscures the violence of British colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade.

Reading Room

The installation of the photograph is accompanied by a reading room where visitors can read Northup’s book and related materials; learn more about McQueen’s work, the film, and the historical context of the events they depict; and simply sit and reflect. Museum educators will be present on weekends to discuss the work and answer questions.

Visitors are also invited to leave a response to the installation.


The museum's Education department has prepared an extended bibliography for those who wish to learn more about McQueen and the history of slavery and lynching in America. 

If you wish to discuss this exhibition with a member of the museum's staff, please contact Karen Buehler, Senior Administrative Assistant, Education, at karen.buehler@yale.edu or 203 432 7192.

Related Programs

at home: In Conversation | Steve McQueen’s “Lynching Tree”
Friday, October 7, 12 pm

Art in Context | Steve McQueen's “Hunger,” the Carceral State, and Prison Reform
Tuesday, October 11, 12:30 pm

at home: Artists in Conversation | Ken Gonzales-Day
Wednesday, October 19, 1 pm
Ken Gonzales-Day, artist and Fletcher Jones Chair in Art, Scripps College, Claremont, California

Steve McQueen Symposium
Friday, October 28 – Saturday, October 29

Film Screenings

Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave"
Friday, October 14, 2:30 pm, and Saturday, October 15, 2:30 pm

Steve McQueen's "Lovers Rock"
Saturday, October 22, 2 pm, and Wednesday, October 26, 2 pm

Student Guide Tours

Saturdays at 12 pm and Sundays at 12:15 pm

About Steve McQueen

British artist Sir Steve McQueen CBE (b. 1969, London) has worked in film, installation, and photography for more than thirty years and received widespread critical acclaim for his feature film debut, Hunger (2008), which won the Caméra d’Or at Cannes. His third feature film, 12 Years a Slave (2013), won three Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress), the BAFTA Film Awards for Best Film and Best Actor, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture–Drama. More recently, the BBC commissioned McQueen to direct Small Axe (2020), a five-film anthology series, and to co-direct Uprising (2021), a three-part documentary series, both of which won multiple television BAFTAs. In 2011, McQueen was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to the visual arts, and in 2022 he was knighted for services to film.

Top image
Steve McQueen, Lynching Tree, 2013, transparency, lightbox © Steve McQueen, courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

Related events


Steve McQueen Symposium

Friday, October 28, 2022–Saturday, October 29, 2022

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