Marc Quinn - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 13, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Europe

  • Catalogue Essay

    Marc Quinn, an often controversial British artist associated with the YBAs, has taken particular interest in flowers since 2000, making an extensive body of work on this theme across several media including sculpture, painting and drawing. Careless Desire (2010) is a highly characteristic example of this psychologically driven oeuvre, within which the artist explores matters such as the concept of ideal beauty, both natural and genetically manipulated, and notions of female sexuality.

    Fascinated by the hothoused plants on sale at London’s New Covent Garden Market, which can be found in bloom at times of year that mere nature would never allow, Quinn likes to surround himself with natural flowers in his east London studio. Orchids, or Orchidaceae, play a special role in his practice. Historically symbols of beauty, fertility, purity and spirituality, they are one of the largest and most diverse families of flowering plants, and give the artist a wide choice to work with. Deriving from the Greek word orchis, meaning testicles, orchids are even today commonly associated with human sexuality, which adds an intriguing aspect to this beautiful and otherwise serene object.

    Quinn has said of his obsession with the flower: "Orchids are like perfectly evolved little sculptures in themselves, they’re full of colour, interesting shapes and beauty. Even though they are a plant’s reproductive organs, they pun on human ones too. They make you realise it is colour, life and sexuality that keeps the world turning. They are a celebration of life. I like all kinds of flowers, irises, sunflowers and anthuriums are great but none are quite as good as orchids." (Marc Quinn quoted in Laura Bradley, ‘AnOther Thing I Wanted to Tell You. Marc Quinn on orchids’, AnOther Magazine, 14 November 2011)

    Cast in bronze and then painted white, the orchid portrayed in Careless Desire has a delicate, weightless quality – it appears as if made from porcelain, a material whose brittle quality resonates with the soft fragility of real petals. The work has been created using Quinn’s signature technique of freezing the living organism in a tank of sub-zero silicone, preserving the natural flower to provide a form that is subsequently cast in bronze, creating a realistic aura of life and freshness. "It’s like a transgenic plant; real flowers cast into bronze then reassembled by me to make an impossible plant. I developed a process to cast the actual flower. It was deemed impossible before I got it to work” (Marc Quinn in ‘My Space: Marc Quinn, sculptor’, Observer, 8 November 2009). Being denied the natural processes of decay, the orchid is forever immortalised in its full beauty. As in Self (1991), for which Quinn used his own blood to create a self-portrait, Careless Desire presents a seemingly living object as if frozen and static, magnifying its importance and beauty, and offering the viewer a rare chance for contemplation. It is a particularly refined example of Quinn’s flower series, in which the artist continues to explore his powerful and elegant take on the transience of life.


Careless Desire

painted bronze
98 x 98 x 40 cm (38 5/8 x 38 5/8 x 15 3/4 in)
Incised 'Marc Quinn 2010 1/6' on the reverse of the stem. This work is number one from an edition of six.

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £157,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

14 February 2013