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Marc Quinn

By 11th September 2023Speakers-2023

Marc Quinn, born 1964, is recognised as one of the leading artists of his generation. His work – which is extensive, encompassing sculptures, paintings and drawings – is not easily reduced to convenient labels. At its centre, however, is an exploration of the multifaceted experience of being human. Although by nature contemporary, his work connects frequently and meaningfully with art history, from modern masters right back to Classical antiquity.

Quinn came to prominence in 1991 with his sculpture Self (1991), a cast of the artist’s head made from ten pints of his own frozen blood. Much of his early work focused similarly on explorations of self, but Quinn soon began reflecting the experiences of others, often challenging society’s unexamined, normative perceptions. Prominent in this shift was his critically acclaimed sculpture Alison Lapper Pregnant (2005), exhibited on the Fourth Plinth of London’s Trafalgar Square. Later came Siren (2008), a solid gold sculpture of Kate Moss exhibited in the British Museum as the 2008 financial crash happened, raising questions of how we attribute value in modern society; Breath (2012), a colossal replica of Alison Lapper Pregnant commissioned for London’s 2012 Paralympics opening ceremony; and Self-conscious Gene (2019) a 3.5-metre bronze sculpture of ‘Zombie Boy’ Rick Genest, now on permanent display at the Science Museum, London.

Quinn’s turn to a broader social canvas is taken even further in his engagement with the most urgent social and environmental issues of our contemporary world. Garden (2000), first shown at Fondazione Prada, is a vast installation described by the artist as “a garden of Eden made from human desire” –an early commentary on society’s relationship with nature. More recently the media, current affairs and world events have shaped Quinn’s artistic focus. History Paintings (2009 – present) is his ten-year series of hyperreal oil paintings of pivotal news moments in recent history, drawn directly from press photography. During the COVID-19 pandemic, as news cycles accelerated, Quinn created HISTORYNOW (2020 – present), a series of paintings derived from iPhone screenshots of news stories and Instagram posts, more urgent in their method and impact.

Since 2015, Quinn has developed several not-for-profit projects, which seek to raise awareness of the ongoing global refugee crisis and raise funds for the International Rescue Committee and further refugee organisations. This includes 100 Heads (2019 – present), a series of one hundred portrait busts of refugees.

Quinn’s work is included in collections around the world, including Tate, London; Metropolitan Museum and Guggenheim, New York; SFMOMA, San Francisco; Arario Museum, Seoul; Fondazione Prada, Milan; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris.