Where Are The Poppies Now aims to digitally reunite the 888,246 ceramic poppies displayed at the tower of London in 2014, creating a digital map as a record of the stories behind why each poppy was purchased.
In 2014 artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper put together an awe-inspiring art installation staged by Historic Royal Palaces at HM Tower of London. The installation featured almost a million handmade ceramic poppies - one to represent each of the 888,246 British and Colonial military fatalities in the first world war.
The original installation was put together between 17 July and 11 November 2014 with the help of 17,500 volunteers. It was one of the most powerful memorials of the First World War centenary and visited by over 5 million people. The project Where Are The Poppies Now aims to record all of the personal stories behind each poppy on a digital map of the world, and will create an invaluable archive for future generations. The contributed stories will be shared via social media in a campaign, supported by The Space, designed to increase awareness and encourage further contributions.
I did nothing but make flowers for almost a year: 300 people at three different sites rolled, cut and shaped every poppy by hand. Each one is unique. By the time we’d stacked them all up to dry, on piles of boards raised by bricks, the studio looked like it was full of trenches. We sprayed them red and counted them in and out, then the Beefeaters counted them all again at the Tower. This was vital. Every single life had to be represented. - Paul Cummins, artist
Planting all 888,246 poppies was a huge undertaking. It became a piece of performative art lasting four months, with people watching the volunteers at work and often applauding. Many of the planters had service backgrounds and brought their own powerful stories. Others identified an individual flower with a relative who’d died in the war and thus the planting became ever more meaningful. - Tom Piper, designer
All of the poppies that made up the installation were sold, raising millions of pounds which were shared equally amongst six service charities. The poppies that were purchased have travelled the globe, as far as Australia and New Zealand, with poppies residing in Canada, Dubai, Brazil and Malaysia; in addition to France and Belgium at war graves in memory of relatives who lost their lives in the First World War.
The campaign, Where are the Poppies Now, is headed by 14-18 NOW, a five-year programme of extraordinary arts experiences connecting people with the First World War. Creating a digital map of the poppies locations around the globe and collating the stories behind why each poppy was purchased.
You can explore some of the most popular stories here: wherearethepoppiesnow.org.uk/our-favourite-stories/.
For more check out the 14-18 NOW website, and follow on Facebook or Twitter for updates. Paul Cummins and Tom Piper discuss the creative process and what the exhibition means to them in this interview with The Guardian.
Visit the website and interactive map
About this Artist
14-18 NOW is a programme of extraordinary arts experiences connecting people with the First World War, as part of the UK’s official centenary commemorations. It commissions new work by leading contemporary artists from all art forms.
The commemorative period is marked by three key seasons - Anniversary of the Declaration of War in 2014, the anniversary of the Battle of Jutland and the Battle of the Somme in 2016, and the centenary of Armistice Day in 2018. 14-18 NOW is responsible for the UK tour of the iconic poppy sculptures by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper, and ‘We’re here because we’re here’ by Jeremy Deller in collaboration with Rufus Norris.