Marc Quinn @ Sir John Soane’s

All About Love “Life” (left) and All About Love “Shines” (right) 2016–17 Courtesy and © Marc Quinn Studio

The Sir John Soane’s Museum is probably one of the most fascinating places in London. The collection of objects amassed by the neo-classical architect Sir John Soane during his lifetime (1753-1837) amounts to a manifestation of artifacts that most of us could only dream of owning. Following his death, his house and its contents was left to the nation, which has captivated and intrigued the public with its interior for over a century. Amongst the antiques, paintings and sculptures that range from ancient Egypt to renaissance Italy, a series of new additions of contemporary art have recently been added in the form of Marc Quinn’s All About Love series.

Quinn’s fiberglass sculptures are each formed from casts of Quinn and his muse, dancer Jenny Bastet, who has also been his partner for the past three years. In each form Quinn’s body is embracing Bastet’s, in some sculptures the pair are holding hands, while in others, Quinn’s arms are wrapped around Bastet’s waist. The duo are presented nude across the series, and, while all of the works are headless and often missing limbs, they appear incredibly tender and loving.

In each piece Bastet is positioned in front, with Quinn clutching his beloved from behind. The focus is completely on Quinn’s muse, who he presents to his viewer with pride, whilst also snatching her away from them, keeping her to himself. He presents himself as incredibly possessive, as well as taller in stature than he is in real life. The figure Quinn presents at Soane’s towers over Bastet, cradling his arms around her, while, in reality, it is his muse who is taller than her partner.

What is most interesting about the exhibition is how, while Quinn’s sculptures appear to blend in so effortlessly with Soane’s collection, they completely move the viewer’s attention away from the historical objects. With their soft shades of creams, greys and tans, it would seem that the All About Love series should disappear amongst plaster casts and pre-historic articles, yet with their delicate nature they command the viewer’s attention. This sense of fragility comes in the way that the backs to the sculptures have been left open and in the display of broken off arms and legs. This may also explain why the pair appears to cling on to one another so tightly, in fear of the other being damaged irreparably.

The titles of all of the works in the series are extremely light and airy: Breath, Eternal, Eyes, Heaven, Hot, Life, Nature, Shake, Shines, reflecting the tenderness embodied in the sculptural forms. These words embody emotions associated with love and whilst they probably are a little overly sentimental in nature, they are the perfect adjectives to describe the series of both public and physical displays of emotion.

The awe-inspiring cabinet of curiosity that encompasses the Sir John Soane’s Museum now has some new additions. While the nude figures may be construed as erotic, the interlinked arms that love and support each other display a softer more gentle display of affection, which I would urge everyone to see before they are removed from the collection.

Marc Quinn: Drawn from Life is on display at Sir John Soane’s Museum until 23 September 2017

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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