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 Marc Quinn  (1964 - )

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Lived/Active: England      Known for: conceptual human body sculpture-sexual and 'cerebral'

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Marc Quinn (born 8 January 1964) is a British artist and part of the group known as Britartists or YBAs (Young British Artists)*.  He is known for Alison Lapper Pregnant (a sculpture of Alison Lapper, which has been installed on the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square), Self (a sculpture of his head made with his own frozen blood), and Garden (2000).

He is one of the Young British Artists (YBAs) and is known for his innovative use of materials to make art, including blood, ice, feces, etc., his use of bringing scientific developments into art, and his designs for "discussion-generating" artworks.

Quinn’s oeuvre displays a preoccupation with the mutability of the body and the dualisms that define human life: spiritual and physical, surface and depth, cerebral and sexual. Using an uncompromising array of materials, from ice and blood to glass, marble or lead, Quinn develops these paradoxes into experimental, conceptual works that are mostly figurative in form.

Quinn was born in London in 1964. He studied history and the history of art at Robinson College, Cambridge.  He worked as an assistant to the sculptor Barry Flanagan. Quinn began to exhibit in the early 1990s.  He was the first artist represented by Jay Jopling, and was exhibited in Charles Saatchi's exhibition, Sensation.

Marc Quinn has exhibited exhibitions including Sonsbeek ’93, Arnhem (1993), Give and Take, Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2001), Statements 7, 50th Venice Biennale* (2003) and Gwangju Biennale (2004). Solo exhibitions include Tate Gallery, London (1995), Kunstverein Hannover (1999), Fondazione Prada, Milan (2000), Tate Liverpool (2002), Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2004), Groninger Museum, Groningen (2006) and MACRO, Rome (2006), DHC/ART Fondation pour l’art contemporain, Montréal (2007) and Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2009).

Quinn’s sculpture, paintings and drawings often deal with the distanced relationship we have with our bodies, highlighting how the conflict between the ‘natural’ and ‘cultural’ has a grip on the contemporary psyche.  In 1999, Quinn began a series of marble sculptures of amputees as a way of re-reading the aspirations of Greek and Roman statuary and their depictions of an idealized whole.

One such work depicted Alison Lapper, a woman who was born without arms, when she was heavily pregnant.  Quinn subsequently enlarged this work to make it a major piece of public art for the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square.  Other key themes in his work include genetic modification and hybridism. Garden (2000), for instance, is a walk-through installation* of impossibly beautiful flowers that will never decay, or his Eternal Spring sculptures, featuring flowers preserved in perfect bloom by being plunged into sub-zero silicone.

Quinn has also explored the potential artistic uses of DNA, making a portrait of a sitter by extracting strands of DNA and placing it in a test-tube. DNA Garden (2001), contains the DNA of over 75 plant species as well as 2 humans: a re-enactment of the Garden of Eden on a cellular level.

Quinn’s diverse and poetic work meditates on our attempts to understand or overcome the transience of human life through scientific knowledge and artistic expression.

Quinn's self portrait self is his signature piece in the art world.  A frozen sculpture of the artist's head made from 4.5 litres of his own blood, taken from his body over a period of 5 months.  This he first did in his late 20s in 1991 continues to do it every 5 years.  In interview in 2000, reflecting on the iconic artwork, he remarked, "Well, I think it’s a great sculpture. I’m really happy with it. I think it is inevitable that you have one piece people focus in on. But that's really good because it gets people into the work."

Described by Quinn as a ‘frozen moment on life support’, the work is carefully maintained in a refrigeration unit, reminding the viewer of the fragility of existence. The artist makes a new version of Self every five years, each of which documents Quinn’s own physical
transformation and deterioration.  Self, like many other pieces by the YBAs, was bought by Charles Saatchi (in 1991 for a reputed £13,000); the piece was exhibited by Saatchi when he opened his new gallery in London in 2003.  In April, 2005, Self was sold to a US collector for £1.5m.[2] The National Portrait Gallery* in London acquired Self 2006. (Purchased through The Art Fund, the Henry Moore Foundation, Terry and Jean de Gunzburg and Project B Contemporary Art, 2009)

His next important piece in terms of his public profile was the frozen garden he made for Miuccia Prada in 2000, installed at Fondazione Prada in Milan, Italy.  A whole garden full of plants which could never grow together kept in cryogenic suspension. In interview, Quinn explained how this worked, "When working with the frozen material, it’s like doing an experiment—different things come out of it. When you freeze something, it normally dries up. To avoid that, you have to stop the air from getting to the object. You can do this by casing it in [silicone]."

His portrait of John E. Sulston, who won the Nobel prize in 2002 for sequencing the human genome on the Human Genome Project, is in the National Portrait Gallery.  It consists of bacteria containing Sulston's DNA in agar jelly. "The portrait was made by our standard methods for DNA cloning," writes Sulston. "My DNA was broken randomly into segments, and treated so that they could be replicated in bacteria. The bacteria containing the DNA segments were spread out on agar jelly in the plate you see in the portrait."

Quinn has made a series of marble sculptures of people either born with limbs missing or who have had them amputated.  This culminated in his 15 ton marble statue of Alison Lapper, a woman born with no arms and severely shortened legs, which was displayed on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, London from September 2005 until October 2007. (The Fourth Plinth is used for rotating displays of sculpture.)  In Disability Studies Quarterly, Ann Millett writes in the abstract of her research article, "The work has been highly criticized for capitalizing on the shock value of disability, as well as lauded for its progressive social values. Alison Lapper Pregnant and the controversy surrounding it showcase disability issues at the forefront of current debates in contemporary art."

Quinn is quoted as saying in 2005:
"At first glance it would seem that there are few if any public sculptures of people with disabilities. However, a closer look reveals that Trafalgar Square is one of the few public spaces where one exists: Nelson on top of his column has lost an arm.  I think that Alison's portrait reactivates this dormant aspect of Trafalgar Square. Most public sculpture, especially in the Trafalgar Square and Whitehall areas, is triumphant male statuary. Nelson's Column is the epitome of a phallic male monument and I felt that the square needed some femininity, linking with Boudicca near the Houses of Parliament. Alison's statue could represent a new model of female heroism."

Since 2006, Marc Quinn has made numerous studies of the supermodel Kate Moss. In April 2006, Sphinx, a sculpture of Kate Moss by Quinn was revealed.[6] The sculpture shows Moss in a yoga position with her ankles and arms wrapped behind her ears.  This body of work culminated in an exhibition at the Mary Boone Gallery in New York in May 2007. The sculpture is on permanent display in Folketeateret in Oslo.

In August 2008, Quinn unveiled another sculpture of Kate Moss, this time in solid 18 carat gold, called Siren, which was exhibited in the British Museum, London.  The life size sculpture was promoted as "the largest gold statue since ancient Egypt".  Siren was identified as using a similar strategy as Damien Hirst's diamond skull with its expensive use of material which could be dismantled if necessary, or in this case melted down, with the artworks as material investment plus added-value artist branding. It was also identified as containing several elements, including the celebrity subject matter and sensation-inducing pose, which accelerate media coverage.  Quinn presents Kate Moss as a modern-day Aphrodite reminding us that Moss's likeness has become as iconic as the goddesses of the ancient world.

n May 2010, Quinn revealed a series of new sculptures at Londons White Cube gallery including The Ecstatic Autogenesis of Pamela based on film actress Pamela Anderson and Chelsea Charms based on pornography model Chelsea Charms.

Quinn has always been interested in the public's obsession with the body, its perfections and flaws, and how this obsession has led some people to alter their bodies in increasingly extreme ways.

Quinn's new sculptures, as Joachim Pissarro has noted in his catalogue essay to accompany the exhibition, are portraits of people who 'exemplify a disconnect between body and soul' and who 'open up a provocative new chapter in [Quinn's] exploration of the relationship between corporeality and spirituality - fundamentally addressing the notion of identity by asking: is one more or less one's self after cosmetic surgery?'

Quinn's new models include 'Catman' (Dennis Avner, who has been tattooed to look like a cat) and 'the pregnant man' (Thomas Beatie) to niche porn stars such as Buck Angel, a 'man with a pussy', and Allanah Starr, a transsexual woman who has changed her body into the idealisation of femininity even though she also has a penis.

Quinn's portrait sculpture Buck & Allanah depicts the couple standing hand in hand, like a latter day Adam and Eve, striding out into their future as radically altered beings.  The sculpture of Thomas Beatie depicts him at full-term pregnancy, shyly bowing his head and cradling his stomach with two hands, appearing like a masculine Virgin Mary, displaying some kind of miraculous conception.

Quinn has also made sculptures of celebrities. Pamela Anderson is depicted in polished bronze, doubled at the shoulder with an identical alter ego, as if part of a conjoined twin, her face staring at the ceiling in a state of ecstasy. Two large heads of Michael Jackson are carved out of black, white and red marble. The two sculptures work in dialectical opposition - depicting Jackson as he is most well known after numerous surgical interventions, one with a black face, the other white.

The exhibition also included a new series of flower paintings executed in reversed colour and two large-scale orchid sculptures in white painted bronze, installed in Hoxton Square, opposite the gallery.

Source: Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Quinn

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Marc Quinn was born in London in 1964.  He read History of Art at Cambridge University (1982-85) and began working as a sculptor in 1984.  Often grouped with the YBAs or Young British Artists*, Quinn is one of the more interesting and compelling artists working today.  The work that brought him into the larger public consciousness was Self (1991), a cast of the artist's head made from 4.5 litres of his own blood. 

Exhibition venues include the Sydney, Australia Biennale in 1992, Young British Artists II at the Saatchi Gallery* in 1993 and Sensation at the Royal Academy of Arts* in 1997 helped to enhance his growing reputation.

Recently, Quinn has investigated the essential structure of self - DNA and the human genome - in his Portrait of Sir John Sulston, shown at the National Portrait Gallery* in 2001.  Here, he was able to create a piece that fused both portraiture and biography and contained every conceivable characteristic of the illustrious scientist. 

He has since produced a self-portrait involving a test tube containing a sample of his own DNA. In addition, he has frozen flowers and plants in silicone, preserving each as a perfect specimen but freezing their life force at the same time.  Beauty and death in these works are presented simultaneously.  Apparent human imperfection has also attracted Quinn as a subject. In 1999 he began a series of portraits of people without limbs, carved to his instructions by artisans in perfect white marble to the exact likeness of the sitters, who were either damaged in the womb or through accident, war or illness.

Source:
Cass Sculpture,
http://www.sculpture.org.uk/biography/MarcQuinn/

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx


** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.
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