Marc Quinn

Installation view "Self"
Installation view "Self"
Installation view "Self"
Marc Quinn "Selfs" 1991–2006 June 8 – July 19, 2009

The Fondation Beyeler is presenting an exhibition project by the British artist Marc Quinn (b. 1964). On view for the first time are all four self-portraits entitled Self, executed by the artist using his own deep-frozen blood at five-year intervals between 1991 and 2006.

Marc Quinn’s oeuvre consists primarily of figurative works. Nature, evolution, the relationships between life and death and between art and science, are his main concerns. In terms of the materials used, Quinn is extremely daring and innovative. He not only works with traditional materials such as bronze, marble and wax but with artificial or human tissues, including blood and even DNA. Apart from their materials, the dimensions of his works play a significant role in Quinn’s approach.

After the first version of Self was seen by a broad public in the "Young British Artists II" exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in 1993, it has definitely counted among the artist’s most famous works. The series addresses the meaning of life, its transitoriness, but also the yearning for an eternal afterlife. The sculptures are casts made from the artist’s head, comprising about five liters of his own blood kept in a solid state by remaining frozen at minus 18 degrees Celsius. As a self-portrait, Self is the most direct form of artistic statement, as Quinn points out: "It depends on my life to be created – it’s made from the substance of me; and so I think of it as the purest form of sculpture to sculpt your own body, from your own body." A key aspect of Self is its dependence on external circumstances, in this case an uninterrupted supply of electricity, without which the head would dissolve. In this sense, the piece becomes a symbol of the dependence of human beings in general. The artist treats this interchange between control and loss of control again and again in other works as well.

Quinn studied art history at Cambridge University. Since 1988 he has exhibited in solo and group shows, his works having been on view in renowned museums, including the Tate Gallery, London, the Fondazione Prada, Milan, and the MACRO in Rome. He currently lives and works in London.