Marc Quinn

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Marc Quinn
Born Marc Quinn
(1964-01-08) 8 January 1964 (age 54)
London, England
Nationality British
Education Robinson College, Cambridge
Known for Contemporary Art, Young British Artists
Awards 2004 - 4th Plinth Commission for Trafalgar Square, London

Marc Quinn (born 8 January 1964) is a British contemporary visual artist whose work includes sculpture, installation and painting. Quinn explores 'what it is to be human in the world today' through subjects including the body, genetics, identity, environment and the media. His work has used materials that vary widely, from blood, bread and flowers, to marble and stainless steel. Quinn has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Sir John Soane's Museum, Tate, National Portrait Gallery, Fondation Beyeler, Fondazione Prada and South London Gallery.[1] The artist was a notable member of the Young British Artists movement, which included Sarah Lucas and Damien Hirst.

Quinn is internationally celebrated and was awarded the commission for the first edition of the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2004, for which he exhibited Alison Lapper Pregnant.[2] Quinn's notorious frozen self-portrait series made of his own blood, Self (1991-present) was subject to a retrospective at Fondation Beyeler in 2009. [3]

Quinn lives and works in London.

Life and career[edit]

'Planet' by Marc Quinn in Singapore

Quinn was born in London in 1964 to a French mother and a British father.[4] He studied history and history of art at Robinson College, Cambridge. He spent his early years in Paris, where his father was a physicist working at the BIPM (Bureau International des Poids et Mesures). Quinn recalls an early fascination with the scientific instruments in his father's laboratory, in particular atomic clocks.[5] He studied history and history of art at Robinson College, Cambridge.[6]

In the early 1990s, Quinn was the first artist to be represented by gallerist Jay Jopling. The artist had his first exhibition with Jopling in 1991, exhibiting Self (1991), a frozen self-portrait made out of nine pints of the artist's blood.[7] In 1993 Jay Jopling founded White Cube at 44 Duke Street London. As well as Quinn, White Cube exhibited Lucian Freud, Gilbert & George, Antony Gormley, Mona Hatoum, Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Runa Islam, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Tracey Emin, Harland Miller, Sam Taylor-Wood, Gavin Turk and Cerith Wyn Evans.[8]

During the 1990s, Quinn and several peers were identified for their radical approach to the making and experiencing of art. In 1992, the loosely affiliated group was called the 'Young British Artists' by writer Michael Corris in Artforum, and included Cornelia Parker, Sarah Lucas, Damien Hirst, Rachel Whiteread and Tracey Emin.[9]

In 1995, Quinn was given a solo exhibition at Tate Britain where new sculptures were shown as part of the Art Now series.[10] In 1997 Quinn's work Self (1991), was exhibited at the Royal Academy, London for the exhibition Sensation. Quinn's Self, along with works by Sarah Lucas and Damien Hirst, were already distinguished amongst the British public. The exhibition received widespread media attention and had a record number of visitors for a contemporary art exhibition.[11] The exhibition then travelled to the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, and to the Brooklyn Museum, New York.[12]

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),[13] Kunstverein Hannover (1999), Fondazione Prada, Milan (2000),[14] 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).

Art practice[edit]

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 idealised whole.


"Self" (ongoing project)[edit]

"Self" is a frozen sculpture of the artist's head made from 5 litres of his own blood, taken from his body over a period of five months, the first of which was made in 1991. Described by Quinn as a "frozen moment on lifesupport", the work is carefully maintained in a refrigeration unit, reminding the viewer of the fragility of existence. Quinn makes a new version of Self every five years, each of which documents Quinn’s own aging and physical deterioration.

It was purchased by Charles Saatchi in 1991 for £13,000, who displayed it in the "Sensation" exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1997. There were rumors that the piece had melted, but Saatchi dispelled those rumors when he exhibited it at his new gallery in London in 2003.[15]

In April 2005 he sold it to Steven A. Cohen, the American hedge-fund manager of Point72 Asset Management (formerly S.A.C.), for $2.8 million.[16] Cohen displayed it at his hedge fund's headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.[17] The National Portrait Gallery in London acquired Self 2006, purchased through The Art Fund, the Henry Moore Foundation, Terry and Jean de Gunzburg.

Garden (2000)[edit]

'Eternal Spring - Sunflowers II', sunflowers kept chilled in liquid silicone oil

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".

Portrait of John E. Sulston (2001)[edit]

His portrait of John E. Sulston, who won the Nobel prize in 2002 for sequencing the human genome on the Human Genome Project,[18] 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."[19]

Alison Lapper, The Fourth Plinth (2005–2007)[edit]

"Alison Lapper" Trafalgar Square, 2005-2007

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 fellow artist 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.[20] (The Fourth Plinth is used for rotating displays of sculpture.) In Disability Studies Quarterly, Ann Millett writes, "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".[21]

A large reproduction of the sculpture was used as a central element of the 2012 Summer Paralympics opening ceremony.[22][23]

Siren (2008)[edit]

'Myth (Sphinx)', Chatsworth House

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.[24] 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 Folketeatret in Oslo, Norway.[25][26]

In August 2008, Quinn unveiled another sculpture of Kate Moss in solid 18-carat gold called Siren, which was exhibited at the British Museum in London. The life-size sculpture was promoted as "the largest gold statue since ancient Egypt".

The Toxic Sublime (2015)[edit]

In 2015 Marc Quinn opened an exhibition of new work at White Cube Bermondsey, entitled The Toxic Sublime. It featured new bodies of work that explore the ecological impact of man on nature. ‘The Toxic Sublimes’ are distorted, three dimensional seascapes. Alongside these paintings, a new series of sculptures, cast in stainless steel, including one measuring over 7.5 meters long, form part of a body of work titled ‘Frozen Waves’. The sculptures originate from the core of shells, eroded by the endless action of waves.

Recent work[edit]

An orchid sculpture by Marc Quinn on the Seilersee in Iserlohn

In May 2010, Quinn revealed a series of new sculptures at London's White Cube gallery including The Ecstatic Autogenesis of Pamela based on film actress Pamela Anderson and Chelsea Charms based on pornography model Chelsea Charms.[27]

Quinn's new models include "Catman" (Dennis Avner (who has been tattooed to look like a cat) and transsexual people such as Thomas Beatie, Buck Angel, and Allanah Starr. Quinn's portrait sculpture "Buck & Allanah" depicts the two nude, standing hand in hand, in a pose reminiscent of Adam and Eve. The sculpture of Thomas Beatie depicts him at full-term pregnancy, bowing his head and cradling his abdomen with two hands.

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.

In July 2015 Quinn opened a show titled The Toxic Sublime in the White Cube in Bermondsey, London.[28]


Quinn is represented in several museums across the world, including Tate Modern, in London, National Portrait Gallery, in London, Musée National d'Art Moderne, in Paris, Stedelijk Museum, in Amsterdam, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, in Oslo, Berardo Collection Museum, in Lisbon, Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, Museum of Modern Art, in New York, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York.[29][30]


  1. ^ "Solo Exhibitions". Marc Quinn studio official website. 
  2. ^ "Two sculptures take fourth plinth". BBC. 
  3. ^ "08. JUN 2009 – 19. JUL 2009, MARC QUINN, «SELFS» 1991–2006". Fondation Beyeler. 
  4. ^ Saphora, Smith (13 August 2015). "Marc Quinn: Evolving as an Artist and Social Chronicler". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Elizabeth, Fullerton (5 December 2014). "Young British Artist Hits Middle Age: Catching up with Marc Quinn". ARTNews. 
  6. ^ "Marc Quinn (1964-)". British Council. 
  7. ^ "Marc Quinn, born 1964". Tate. 
  8. ^ "Exhibitions". White Cube. 
  9. ^ "Young British Artists (YBAS)". Tate. 
  10. ^ "Marc Quinn, born 1964". Tate. 
  11. ^ Vanessa, Thorpe (14 December 2008). "Record crowds for China art show". The Guardian. 
  12. ^ "Sensation". Damien Hirst official website. 
  13. ^ Tate. "Art Now: Marc Quinn: Emotional Detox - Exhibition at Tate Britain | Tate". Tate. Retrieved 4 July 2017. 
  14. ^ "prada Foundation Marc Quinn Project". 2000. Retrieved 5 July 2017. 
  15. ^ "Blood Sculpture 'Melted'". BBC News. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  16. ^ Colin, Gleadell (10 May 2005). "Saatchi Sells Another Key Work in His Collection". ArtNews. 
  17. ^ Patrick, Radden Keefe (13 October 2014). "The Empire of Edge". The New Yorker. 
  18. ^ Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute website (7 October 2002). Retrieved 2 January 2010.
  19. ^ Jones, Jonathan. (22 September 2001). John Sulston, Marc Quinn (2001), The Guardian. Retrieved 2 January 2010.
  20. ^ BBC report on Alison Lapper Pregnant
  21. ^ Millett, Ann. (2008)."Sculpting Body Ideals: Alison Lapper Pregnant and the Public Display of Disability", Disability Studies Quarterly, 28(3). Retrieved 2 January 2010.
  22. ^ Gordon Rayner (29 August 2012). "Paralympics 2012: a stirring journey to enlightenment". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  23. ^ "Marc Quinn Alison Lapper Sculpture Thrills Paralympic Spectators". ArtLyst. 30 August 2012. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  24. ^ BBC News. (13 April 2006). 'Model Moss cast in bronze statue'. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
  25. ^ "Theartnewspaper"
  26. ^"%20/20923[permanent dead link]
  27. ^ "Marc Quinn: Just Don't Call It a Freak Show". The Guardian, 10 May 2010.
  28. ^ Marc Quinn review - He sells sea shells, Article by Jonathan Jones, The Guardian, 13 July 2015
  29. ^ Marc Quinn at Artcyclopedia
  30. ^ Marc Quinn at

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