Marc Quinn

FOR ONCE, the Prada Foundation did not have to transform its space: The extravagance typical of the foundation's exhibitions, was, in this case, achieved by the works on display alone, thanks to the technical wizardry evidently required to create them. Indeed, in the works made for this occasion, Marc Quinn's propensity for a certain magniloquence seemed to confirm the desire for effect so apparent in earlier work that it became a factor in his reputation as one of England's most “sensational” artists.

Continuous Present, 2000, is a large stainless-steel cylinder with a reflective surface and a ring surrounding its base. Along this ring, a human skull moves very slowly, in circular fashion, presenting the viewer with the image of a memento mori, its reflections bringing to mind the anamorphosis of Holbein's Ambassadors, 1533. But here, the sad confirmation of our mortality is not achieved through a distorted image that a particular tool can make legible, as in a true anamorphosis, but rather through the tool itself, namely, the cylinder in which our image is reflected, slightly distorted by the curved surface.

In the long gallery following the first exhibition space was a group of eight white marble portraits of people whose names and surnames are given in the overall title for the piece, dated 1999–2000. What all of them have in common is the loss of a limb, whether due to a birth defect, to an accident, or as a result of war. Their naked bodies were exhibited mercilessly, but with all the dignity that a noble material such as white marble can bestow on a portrayed subject. What is explicit is thus a reference to classical statuary, which for the most part has come down to us in fragmentary form. and therefore to the aesthetics of the broken, the unfinished, even the hideous, conjoined with a language that approaches hyperrealism. Yet, walking about this gallery of statues, one experienced a sense of uneasiness—a result not of the corporeal quality of the figures, but of the artist's inability to detach himself from a sense of curiosity that inclines toward the sensationalistic.

The same impression, but greatly amplified, was created by the last work exhibited, the show's true culmination. Garden, 2000, was an enormous glass-walled room, inside which the artist had installed a grassy expanse; a great number of flowers and plants could be admired, from the outside, for the splendor of their colors and variety of forms. But there was something unnatural about the situation, which gradually emerged as one noticed such details as the fact that some flowers were planted in the ground with the stem cut almost to the corolla. As it happens, the showcase was a cold-storage unit, a sort of enormous aquarium full of silicon liquid, kept at a subzero temperature. The flowers, glowing with chromatic vitality, were really already dead, like anatomical organs preserved in formalin, or like made-up cadavers. As a reflection on death and its relationships with life, this was hardly convincing, both because the work too closely mirrors the approach of Damien Hirst, and because Quinn's grandiose mode of expression is, unfortunately, as banal as his underlying statement—and his apparent assumption that production value is the key to an artwork's effect.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.