News - Rachel Maclean: The Lion and The Unicorn


A display of film and photographs by artist Rachel Maclean opens at the National Gallery on Thursday...

Press Release

Maclean (1987–) is one of the most sharply satirical artists in Britain today. Using elaborate masks, grotesque prosthetics, and gaudy scenography, her caustic and darkly comical films explore both collective and individual identities.

'Rachel Maclean: The Lion and The Unicorn' features the artist’s 2012 film The Lion and The Unicorn, which shines an irreverent light on Scottish-English relations. Commissioned by Edinburgh Printmakers in the lead-up to the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, Maclean’s film shows the heraldic attendants of the Royal Coat of Arms, the English lion, and the Scottish unicorn, squabbling over the future of the United Kingdom. Using found audio, including excerpts from The Queen’s 1957 Christmas Broadcast, the artist presents national symbols in a setting of political conflict.

The film is accompanied by a selection of related prints from 2013 showing elaborate, intricately staged scenes conveying exaggerated and dramatic narratives. In her prints as well as ornate filmmaking, Maclean draws on an extensive repertory of art historical allusions, combining traditional iconography and references to pop culture to create cutting-edge satire.

'Rachel Maclean: The Lion and The Unicorn' is the artist’s first display of work at the National Gallery. It follows her exhibition 'Over the Rainbow' which recently ended its run at the National Gallery of Australia. Having exhibited extensively internationally, in 2017, Maclean was selected to represent Scotland+Venice at the Venice Biennale. Her work won the prestigious Margaret Tait Award in 2013 and has been shown at HOME (Manchester); Tate (London); MCA (Chicago); Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane (Dublin); Artpace (San Antonio, USA); The Talbot Rice Gallery (Edinburgh); the Royal Scottish Academy (Edinburgh), and as part of the touring British Art Show 8, 2015. She also has, until December 16, an exhibition at the Zabludowicz Collection (London.)

Daniel Herrmann, Curator of Special Projects at the National Gallery, and curator of Rachel Maclean: The Lion and the Unicorn, says, “When the National Gallery opened, two days a week were dedicated to practising artists. Ever since, the Gallery has been at the heart of a thriving community of visitors, critics, and artists – a gallery full of discussion, debate, and delight. We are thrilled to continue this tradition with a new Contemporary Programme. Rachel Maclean is one of Scotland’s most astute artists today, combining an unflinching sense of satire with sincere talent and skill. We are excited to present Rachel Maclean’s works to our contemporary audiences and to show our historic collection and exhibitions in dialogue with artists of today."

Rachel Maclean, 'The Queen', 2013. Commissioned and published by Edinburgh Printmakers © Rachel Maclean