For the first time, the Belvedere in Vienna will present Marc Quinn’s eight-part sculpture series Emotional Detox together with the iconic “Character Heads“ by Baroque sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. The exhibition at the Upper Belvedere opens a powerful dialogue between contemporary art and major works from the museum’s historical collection. Messerschmidt’s work has long been an inspiration for Quinn, the “Character Heads“ directly influenced the creation of Emotional Detox. Quinn’s eight life-sized sculptural self-portraits are products of a challenging period in the artist’s life.
In the early 1990s, Quinn was processing the psycho- logical and physical transformation brought on by the end of his alcohol addiction. During this period, he regularly visited Messerschmidt’s sculpture The Strong Smell at the V&A in London, enamoured by the 18th century artist’s expressive depiction of mental health struggle. Messerschmidt’s “Character Heads“ inspired Quinn to translate his own journey of detoxification into lead and wax sculptures which would come to form the Emotional Detox series. This interest in capturing the fleeting emotive qualities of facial expressions and gestures, and grasping them through the means of sculpture, connects the two artists across more than two centuries. Both artists use lead, a material known for its toxicity and role in the fabled alchemical journey that results in gold; a symbolic base metal on a journey of transformation.
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