Marc Quinn on artwriting (2000)

Back in 2000 in interview, Marc Quinn, the British artist known for using unusual art materials like ice, blood and excrement, shared his thoughts about his experience with contemporary artwriting—and the positioning of his iconic work, Self, made from nine pints of his own blood.

R. J. Preece
Art Design Publicity at ADC | 13 November 2010
This excerpt is from an interview previously published in Sculpture magazine, 19(8), pp. 15-9; and in G. Harper & T. Moyer’s Conversations on Sculpture (2007), pp. 52-57. (International Sculpture Center Press: Hamilton, NJ, USA; distributed by University of Washington Press).

R.J. Preece: Do you have any particular views about the writings on your work?

Marc Quinn: They’re pretty much universally uninteresting. There are very few good writers about art, and you either get art-fashion writing with trendy views or you get very traditional writing. Occasionally, you get people who can write in an interesting way. Really, I think in a sense art writing needs to be renewed as well. It’s in a pretty bad condition.

David Sylvester writes really well about an earlier generation of artists—there are no writers that I can see who write in an in-depth manner nowadays—it just seems light, and yet, unbearably plodding. However, it’s difficult to be an art writer or write about art. Where is your audience, and how do you reach them?

R.J. Preece: Are there any things that have been written about you that you disagree with? For example, I saw two reviews in The New York Times and TimeOut New York referring to your Gagosian gallery show, and I thought they were a little unfair.

Marc Quinn: Yes. They totally misunderstood—almost willfully— kind of inverting what it was all about. So, in a sense, art writing is also a sort of defining, excluding and including—not really talking about the work but creating a boundary of acceptability. It’s like saying, “This is okay, and this is not worth thinking about.” It’s like creating a kind of pale beyond which are the other things, and within which are those things that tend to exist in language.

R.J. Preece: Self, as you know, has become a powerful icon, and when there is writing about you and your work, it is often put in the forefront as a strong image. Do you have any views about the positioning of that one work, and how do you look at Self now?

Marc Quinn: Well, I think it’s a great sculpture. I’m really happy with it. I think it is inevitable that you have one piece people focus in on. But that’s really good because it gets people into the work.

R.J. Preece: Did you know this when you were making Self?

Marc Quinn: Yes, it seemed pretty radical.

Click to read the full interview Marc Quinn : Just a load of shock?