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Marc Quinn, Born 1964, UK

Held by Desire (The Dimensions of Freedom), 2017–18
The Architecture of Life, 2013

"The Architecture of Life" is a bronze sculpture of a Stellaria Solaris seashell that has been reproduced and enlarged using 3-D technology. Though his sculpture is monumental in size, Quinn wants it to appear as a found object: a once-living being whose hard exterior bears the traces of time and was formed to protect it from the perils of nature.

"To me, looking at these natural forms is like looking at the archaeology of art," Quinn explains. "Even though these creatures have no self-awareness, they create what we see as amazingly beautiful things...I feel like I'm working alongside a creature from the beginning of time, and the beginning of art, and that therefore, somehow, these shells are about time travel."

"To me, they are actually sculptures of the space-time continuum," he adds. "You have the rings on the outside of the shell, which look and act like the rings of a tree - showing the past of the object – and at the same time, the rings are, to me, like a map of the turning of the world."

Quinn’s second sculpture at Donum, "Held by Desire", is a bronze sculpture of a bonsai tree. In real life, the bonsai tree is completely shaped by humans: its roots are pruned, and its dimensions are kept unnaturally small. To Quinn, the bonsai tree symbolizes man's perpetual desire to dominate and overpower nature. Left to its own devices, a replanted bonsai tree would grow as tall as any other tree. So the artist imagines that fully developed bonsai tree here in sculptural form.

"There are social and emotional forces that keep everything in the world running, which are the genetic imperatives of things," he explains. "They are manifested in desire: the desire to eat, sexual desire, the desire to control nature – all of these survival things that humans have elaborated and evolved."


The British-born Quinn belongs to the generation known as the Young British Artists. He sprang to fame in 1991 with "Self," a cast of his head made entirely from his own blood, which he collected over a protracted period. Born in London and a Cambridge University art history graduate, he attracted further public attention in 2005 with a work he created for the empty Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square: "Alison Lapper Pregnant," a 15-ton marble sculpture of a pregnant and disabled artist (which he transformed, in 2012, into an inflatable sculpture titled "Breath").


Marc Quinn discussing Held by Desire (The Dimensions of Freedom)


Marc Quinn discussing The Architecture of Life