Baring all: Marc Quinn’s fragmentary bodies highlights his muted, sentimental tendencies

All about Love, 'Untrimmed', 2016-17. Courtesy of Marc Quinn Studio
(Image credit: TBC)

Neoclassical architect Sir John Soane was a rambunctious art collector. Since his death in 1837, his London home has been left like a mausoleum. Today, still untouched at his request, the parlours and hallways are filled with piles of his own sketches, endless architectural drawings, and a bounty of antiquities pulled from all pockets of the globe.

Now a popular London museum, Sir Soane’s overflowing home has (somehow) found space for 12 new sculptures from artist Marc Quinn. Each intimately depicts the sculptor's muse, dancer Jenny Bastet, who follows the likes of artist Alison Lapper and Kate Moss in inspiring Quinn.

One of a handful of contemporary exhibitions displayed in the museum (recall the work of Sarah Lucas last year), this new offering is a particularly radical one. Quinn was one of the trailblazing Young British Artists who were scarcely out of the headlines in the early 1990s. His cultural capital and art-world celebrity ballooned with news of controversial sculptures of his own penis, and an infamous self-portrait made from buckets of his own blood. Though his new works highlight Quinn's more muted, sentimental tendencies, his legacy as an agent provocateur remains.

‘All About Love, Hot'

‘All About Love, Hot', in the Monks Parlour at Sir John Soane's Museum. Courtesy of Marc Quinn Studio

(Image credit: TBC)

Fragments of Bastet’s exposed body, cast in skin-thin fibreglass, dance around the museum, weaving between pre-existing exhibits (elaborate mirrors, patterned rugs and stained glass windows). They depict her careening or stoically posing, rapt in the arms of another dancer (or lover?). They are hollow, headless, insufficient, playing on Quinn's longstanding interest in disjointed, fractional works.

There's no question that Bastet's raw nudity is at odds with the tight-lipped furniture in the Soane Museum's drawing rooms. ‘As with the Sarah Lucas exhibition, we did have a warning that it contained nudity,’ says the museum's current director Bruce Boucher. ‘I think there were only two objections. We have around 2,300 visitors a week.’

But would Soane have approved of what currently stands in his living room? Probably, argues Boucher, who has been at the helm since last year. ‘When Soane was alive, he was very much into contemporary British art, he bought a lot of contemporary paintings and sculptures. He tried to encourage young British artists, hoping they would be inspired by his collection. We feel like we are carrying out his mission.’

'Breathe', 'Eyes'

All About Love, 'Breathe' (left) and All About Love, 'Eyes', both 2016-17

(Image credit: TBC)


All About Love, 'Breathe', 2016-17

(Image credit: TBC)


All About Love, 'Life' (left) and All About Love, 'Shines', both 2016-17

(Image credit: TBC)


‘Marc Quinn: Drawn from Life’ is on view until 23 September 2017. For more information, visit the Sir John Soane Museum website


13 Lincoln's Inn Fields
London, WC2A 3BP


Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.