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Marc Quinn opens major solo exhibition at Kew Gardens inspired by nature and science.

Marc Quinn has just opened a major exhibition at Kew Gardens exploring the relationship between man and plants. Building on the artist’s long-standing interest in nature and the human experience, Quinn’s work Light in life features monumental sculptures throughout the gardens as well as a dedicated display of works from the 1990s to today in the Shirley Sherwood Botanical Art Gallery.

Marc QuinnInstallation Photography, 2024

As humans, we are not isolated from our environment; we interact and exist within them as part of nature. Collaborating with Kew, a world-class botanical research centre, and its team of scientists and horticulturists, has highlighted how integral the natural world is to my practice. The complex science of plants has always inspired and continues to inspire my thinking as an artist. I look forward to presenting this new body of work at Kew Gardens for the first time, as well as recontextualizing previous works from the last 30 years in this unique and special setting.

Mark Quinn

Offering moments of thoughtful reflection and interaction in the gardens, the exhibition examines our complex relationship with the natural world and represents one of the largest site-specific art projects at Kew to date.

Light in life features a selection of newly designed artworks, developed through close collaboration with Kew scientists and horticulturists. Working with specialists from a range of fields, including taxonomy and plant diversity, Quinn has created pieces based on important plants from Kew’s collections. Among these is a series of large-scale sculptures based on herbarium specimens of plants that inspired the discovery of medicines, including the opium poppy (Papaver sleeping pill), a source of medications used to relieve pain. These abstract sculptures not only tell the vital story of our reliance on the natural world for therapeutic treatments, but also highlight the constructive quality of humanity’s complex relationship with nature.

This theme is further reflected in Held by desire; a large bronze bonsai sculpture that takes center stage in Temperate House, the largest Victorian greenhouse in the world. Known throughout the world as the art of growing dwarf trees and shrubs, bonsai are kept at a consistently small size through careful pruning – perhaps the most careful manipulation of nature for aesthetic purposes. Quinn’s 5m sculptural versions in bronze free the tree from the bonds of human control and align it with its own nature by expanding it to its full potential.

Celebrating the magnificence of the 175-year-old Palm House in Kew, Quinn has also created a series of new sculptural palm leaf portraits based on the Bismarck. (Bismarckia nobilis) and Sabal (Sabal Palm) Palm trees from the greenhouse, often described as Kew’s living laboratory. These works of art will be iconic manifestations of our relationship with trees and their role in providing shelter, food and the daily fabric of survival for billions of people around the world. Created in polished stainless steel, the mirror reminds us of the role of light in the creation of plants and all living things, and blurs the boundaries between the viewer, the plant and the landscape.

New works on display at the Shirley Sherwood Botanical Art Gallery include Parvis Herbarium, a reinterpretation of Kew’s collection of seven million preserved plant specimens. Visiting the herbarium, Quinn was amazed by the number of dried plants in the collection, seemingly containing every variety except one: flowers from supermarkets and gas stations. These cultivated creations demonstrate the human impulse to create flowers that do not normally exist in nature.

Next to it, another novelty, Human nature depicts two bouquets of tulips, one created from glass and the other from frozen animal blood, a byproduct of slaughterhouse processing that is bought and sold in the same way as countless other products. Thus, both parts of Human nature thinking about the commodification and consumption of the natural world, with the elegant end products we consume often belying the destruction required to produce them.

These new sculptures will be accompanied by a selection of existing artworks, many of which explore the idea of ​​nature as a fundamental part of humanity, an important element of Marc Quinn’s practice since the 1990s Also at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, a new exhibition in Gallery Six will include a selection of works from the Shirley Sherwood Collection, featuring botanical paintings co-curated by Dr. Sherwood and Marc Quinn, as well as a selection. drawings by Marc Quinn. These works will reflect the plants that inspired the artworks that are an integral part of Light in lifeincluding orchids, lilies, bonsai and coconut trees.

As a visionary artist with a remarkable track record of pushing the boundaries of contemporary art, Marc Quinn skillfully combines innovation and beauty in his creations. Kew Gardens provides the ideal setting for this spectacular exhibition, and Light in life promises to be a must-visit for summer 2024, inviting visitors to explore, contemplate and rediscover their intrinsic connection to the natural world.

Paul Denton, responsible for tourism programs and exhibitions,

Mark Quinn, Light in lifefrom May 4 to September 29, 2024, Kew Gardens

Entrance to the exhibition is included in a ticket to Kew Gardens. Online pre-booking offers the best value for money visit.

About the artist

Portrait of Marc Quinn taken by Mary McCartney at Kew Gardens in spring 2024

Marc Quinn, born in 1964, is an artist whose diverse practice – encompassing sculpture, painting and drawing – is not easy to categorize. Although contemporary in nature, his work frequently and meaningfully connects to the history of art, from the modern masters to classical antiquity. At its center is an exploration of the multifaceted experience of being human.

Marc Quinn has exhibited internationally in museums and galleries, including the Tate, London; Kunstverein, Hannover; Prada Foundation, Milan; MACRO, Rome; and Fondation Beyeler, Basel. Quinn’s work is in collections around the world, including the Tate, London; Metropolitan Museum and Guggenheim, New York; SFMOMA, San Francisco; Arario Museum, Seoul; Prada Foundation, Milan; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Center Pompidou, Paris.

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