This Spring, Marc Quinn presents HISTORYNOW at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Venezia, marking a new material chapter in his decade-long History Paintings project. Forty-eight new paintings and an accompanying STELE sculpture are presented in dialogue with the museum’s own collection from classical antiquity, inviting reflections on society past and present.
Quinn’s works, which begin their life as iPhone screenshots, replicate the digital portals through which humans absorb, consume, and share news, a phenomenon markedly accelerated by the events of the last two years. Through screens, society witnesses world-shifting cultural events, incidents of human tragedy, and natural disasters, alongside moments of pop cultural levity in one endlessly refreshing stream.
HISTORYNOW replicates a scrolling journey through digital feeds, the content of which oscillates between celebrity news and global current affairs. Unveiled in a space usually reserved for reflections on the past, connections are uncovered between the HISTORYNOW series and the museum’s classical sculptures, offering commentary on the method and momentum with which news and stories have been communicated across history. In this exhibition Quinn returns to themes explored throughout his career, posing questions concerning societal ideals and the human condition.
Rather than a chronological presentation, the paintings are grouped in thematic conversation with the classical collection exhibited in each room. Quinn explores historic yet timely tropes such as beauty ideals, power, conflict and heroism, among other topics. The final room of the exhibition houses a multimedia experience offering additional context for the painting series, including interviews with individuals connected to the imagery or content of the paintings. Through these paintings and subsequent interviews, Quinn seeks to reflect on these viral and often incomplete stories to bring viewers back to the heart of the subject matter, unpacking our compulsion toward instant consumption and reaction.
Painted through several government lockdowns in the UK, the preparatory process of each artwork became a meditative act for Quinn; the daily ritual of painting reflected the continuous rhythm of scrolling through the internet. While the method, materials and results of Quinn’s painting process vary, the screenshot as primer remains a constant, evoking the ubiquity and urgency of news and technology in our lives.
The exhibition HISTORYNOW, on view during the 59th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, will allow for an extended reopening of the entrance to the Archaeological Museum in the Piazzetta after over twenty years of closure to the public. The courtyard is notable as the only one of the Procuratie wholly built to Vincenzo Scamozzi’s original design. The event of its reopening is marked by the exhibition of one large sculpture by Marc Quinn to be displayed among ancient Roman sarcophagi, elegant cylindrical altars of Greek origin, and the impressive statue of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa sent from Rome for the Grimani of Santa Maria Formosa.
With the reopening of the courtyard, a single ticket will allow visitors to access the Procuratie Nuove complex from Doge’s Palace without having to cross St. Mark’s Square. The aim of this initiative is to enrich the visitors’ experience and understanding of the network of museums that occupy the heart of Venice and St Mark’s Square. The HISTORYNOW exhibition provides an ideal opportunity not only to experiment with an additional access route to the museums of St. Mark’s Square, but also to revive the centuries-old presence of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Venezia in St Mark’s Square by broadening its audience and the cultural interests, age, and nationalities of its visitors.
HISTORYNOW is curated by Francesca Pini and Aindrea Emelife.
HISTORY NOW opens 21st April 2022 - 23rd October 2022
Installation image from HISTORYNOW of Baby Erin, The Times, 2020.
Installation image from HISTORYNOW of Kim at the Met Ball, 2022.
Installation image from HISTORYNOW of Shaman Triptych, BBC News, 2021.
Installation image from HISTORYNOW of FreeBritney To get it off my heart, Instagram, 2021.
Installation image from HISTORYNOW of I’m mad as hell, The Times, 2020.