British artist Marc Quinn has filled the Museo DArte Contemporanea Roma (MACRO) with skeletons, mutilated sculptures and genetically modified flowers for his first major exhibition at an Italian state museum. One of the so-called Young British Artists (YBAs) and a contemporary of Damien Hirst and Antony Gormley, Quinn is famous for having sculpted his own head using five litres of his frozen blood in Self (1991). More recently, he created a controversial permanent white marble sculpture for Trafalgar Square in London of heavily pregnant artist Alison Lapper, who was born without arms and with shortened legs due to a condition called phocomelia.
We are delighted to be presenting this exhibition by a pap of the YBAs and we have tried to represent the full breadth of his artistic language, Danilo Eccher, director of MACRO, said at the inaugural press conference on 21 June.
Around 30 of Quinns works, all created in the last six years, cover MACROs top floor. The most striking is perhaps Winter Garden (2005), a room full of eight huge pigment prints of flowers orchids in purples, red stems with yellow tips, sunflowers, pinks and hyacinth blues. Vibrant, vivid and unnatural, the flowers lie on a carpet of snow with fat strawberries, artichokes and green fruits nestled among them. But despite first appearances this is an ode to death rather than beauty: in one of the prints, at first unnoticeable, is a human skull split open, its teeth grinning, a cluster of shining red berries emerging from its nose socket.
In the centre of the room is Sky (2006), the tiny head of a newborn child made from placenta and umbilical cord that sits like a squashed black rotten fruit, an apple or a prune, with wise, scrumpled eyes. The model for the work was Quinns second son. We realize that the impact of Sky can be shocking and tragic, but in fact its a hymn to life and birth, Eccher said.
In another room, nine bronze statues of unidentifiable animals of different sizes lie black, melted and molded as if recovered from a fire. The trunks of what could be dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, some with legs and some without, are spliced open to chilling effect. In Chemical Life Support, the white sculptures of four adult nudes and a small baby lie on a black floor, reminiscent of the bodies recovered from the Vesuvius explosion in Pompei. Each represents people who rely on medical support to survive and has been modeled from a mixture of wax and the medicines they require. Among the figures are Nicholas Grogan Insulin (Diabetes) (2005) and Innoscience (2004), modeled from Quinns first son and impregnated with the artificial milk that the baby fed on for his first three months of life.
Images of the model Kate Moss are also a prominent feature of the exhibition, both in Sphinx (2005), a totemic sculpture of Moss in a yoga pose, and in a room full of paintings of the model. Around 40 unframed images in different styles carpet the walls, portraying Moss as a goddess, with her spinal cord showing, upside down, distorted, contorted, abstract and smudged. In the centre of the room is Waiting for Godot, the tiny skeleton of a homunculus in prayer which has recently been acquired for MACROs permanent collection.
In addition to the Quinn exhibition, an ambitious installation by French artist Christian Boltanski also opens to the public on 22 June at the MACRO Matattoio. Entitled Exit, the installation covers 1,000 sqm with clothes in piles, hanging up, boxed or suspended in the air. You cross it in the darkness, but there are voices, sounds and little lights that give a sense of how precarious life is, Eccher said. He explained the decision to present works by both Quinn and Boltanski simultaneously for the summer season in terms of MACROs aim to present the public with a series of events. Both artists touch on great themes of contemporary philosophy life, death, body, memory even if they have completely different outcomes, he added.
Marc Quinn. 22 June-30 September. MACRO, Via Reggio Emilia 54, tel. 06671070400. Tues-Sun 09.00-19.00.
Christian Boltanski. 21 June-30 September. MACRO Mattatoio, Piazza Orazio Giustiniani 4, tel. 065742284. Tues-Sun 16.00-24.00.