Lise Meitner

Yelena Popova (1978 - )

Unique re-upholstered chair


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© Yelena Popova

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  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall
    Yelena Popova’s (born 1978) upholstered chair, Lise Meitner, takes its title from the Austrian-Swedish physicist of the same name.

    About Lise Meitner

    Born in Vienna in 1878, Meitner moved to Berlin to pursue a scientific career. In 1926, she became the first woman in Germany to achieve the grade of Professor of Physics. Alongside fellow physicist Otto Hahn, she led the small research group that discovered the nuclear fission of uranium, arguably the most influential scientific breakthrough of the 20th century. This discovery gave rise to the twin pursuits of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. In 1938, the passing of the Nuremberg Laws in Germany meant that Meitner, who had converted to Christianity in 1908 but was born into a Jewish family, found herself unemployed and under threat. She fled to the Netherlands, and later settled in Sweden. When Meitner was invited to be part of the Manhattan Project, the joint effort led by the United States and Canada that resulted in the first nuclear weapons, she declared ‘I will have nothing to do with the bomb!’

    About this artwork

    The chair used for this work was retrieved by the artist from Girton College, Cambridge. It is upholstered with a jacquard woven tapestry based on Yelena Popova’s first tapestry, For Mind, Body and Spirit (2017) produced during the year of the artist's residency at Girton College in 2016–17. With its multiple rays and waves emanating from two central circles, the imagery of the upholstery brings to mind scientific diagrams of chemical elements.
  • About the artist
    Yelena Popova (b. 1978, Urals, Russia) lives and works in Nottingham. She studied at Moscow Art Theatre School and Byam Shaw at Central St Martins before graduating from MA Painting at the Royal College of Art in July 2011. She has exhibited internationally since 2011, and has won several prizes including The Outset Prize (2011), The Parallel Prize (2011), The Red Mansion Prize (2011), in addition to being shortlisted for The Arts Foundation Awards: Painting (2013).
  • Explore
    science, physics, woman
    Materials & Techniques
    wood, textile, tapestry, mixed media sculpture, chair
  • Details
    Lise Meitner
    Unique re-upholstered chair
    height: 86.7 cm, width: 76.0 cm, depth: 81.0 cm
    Purchased from L'étrangère, January 2019
    L'étrangère, London, UK; from whom purchased by the UK Government Art Collection, 2019
    GAC number