Italian, b. 1966
Contemporary Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn is a leading figurative sculptor whose work is inspired by such masters as Michelangelo, Bernini and Rodin. Exhibited internationally, his monumental public art and smaller, more intimate pieces transmit his passion for eternal values and authentic emotions. He is best known for expressive recreations of human hands.
Born on 7th May 1966 in Rome to the Oscar Award winning Mexican American actor Anthony Quinn and his second wife, costume designer Iolanda Addolori, Quinn’s childhood was split between Italy and the United States. His father had a profound influence on him, both in terms of living in the limelight of the film world and with respect to Anthony’s early work in painting and sculpting architecture.
Quinn graduated from New York University in ‘88 and studied at the American Academy of Fine Arts in New York. He vividly recalls the moment in 1989 when he felt that he had created his first genuine work of art: ‘I had made a torso from Michelangelo’s drawing of Adam… an artisan’s job … I had an idea and began chiselling away, and Eve came out of Adam’s body… It had started as a purely academic exercise, yet it had become an artwork.’
In 1988 Quinn married Giovanna Cicutto, and on the birth of the first of their three sons they decided to leave New York – a place that ‘hardens your human values’ – and settle in Spain. ‘We chose Spain for its Latin character, its fervour and values of people and family, and for its great artistic trajectory’, he explains.
In his twenties Quinn enjoyed a brief acting career, including playing alongside his father in Stradivari (1989), and also giving an acclaimed performance as Salvador Dalí. However, he did not enjoy working in the acting profession and decided to concentrate purely on sculpture.
Quinn’s creative ideas spark quickly into life: ‘The inspiration comes within a millisecond’, he says, as he is driven to sculpt by observing life’s everyday energy. Yet a finished project takes months to realise, and it has to carry a clear meaning. Quinn usually conceives each work in writing, and the poetic text is ultimately displayed with the sculpture, as an integral part of the piece, not merely as an explanation.
Quinn’s work appears in many private collections throughout the world and has been exhibited internationally throughout the past two decades. The Vatican engaged him to sculpt a likeness of St Anthony for the Basilica del Santo in Padua, in commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the saint’s birth.
In Birmingham, Tree of Life was erected outside St Martin’s Church in 2005 to commemorate those who died in the Second World War blitz on the city.
In November 2005 one of Quinn’s largest public sculptures, Rise Through Education, was installed at Aspire Academy in Doha, commissioned by the state of Qatar. Weighing an impressive 8 tonnes, this monument shows a pair of adult hands placing the world in a child’s hand, the arms forming a circle above an open book.
In 2008 Evolution, a major exhibition of Quinn’s output, was chosen to inaugurate the new premises of Halcyon Gallery in Mayfair, London, and the gallery published an important book on his work. Many of the sculptures in Evolution featured the symbol that has become synonymous with Quinn: the human hand.
Equilibrium, an exhibition of Quinn’s monumental sculptures, followed in November 2009, coinciding with the installation of Give and Take III in Berkeley Square for six months. The exhibition title reflects Quinn’s belief: ‘It is essential to find a balance in life. Many times that balance is achieved with the help of the people who surround us and hold us firmly to the ground, and without whom we would float into perdition.’
Quinn exhibited internationally during 2010, holding shows the Rarity Gallery in Greece, the Hewar Art Gallery in Saudi Arabia, the Marigold Gallery in India and the Ode to Art Gallery in Singapore. His sculpture Vroom Vroom, a playful interpretation of the independence of young adulthood, was displayed at Valencia’s Institute of Modern Art in the summer and again later that year at the Abu Dhabi Art Fair. In January 2011 the work was installed in Park Lane, London, as part of Westminster Council’s City of Sculpture Festival, and Finding Love was unveiled at the entrance of the newly opened One Hyde Park building in Knightsbridge. Coinciding with two further prominent placements of Quinn’s monumental sculpture – The Force of Nature II in Berkeley Square and Volare in Cadogan Gardens – these pieces firmly launched Halcyon Gallery’s public sculpture trail in the city of London.
In spring 2011, Quinn was invited to participate in the first ever summer exhibition of outdoor sculpture in Rome at the Rassegna Internazionale di Scultura di Roma, it featured a range of significant contemporary and historic artists. At the Casina Valadier in the Villa Borghese Park he exhibited La Dolce Vita, a piece representing the joie de vivre of that period and a ‘sense of total abandonment to the child within’. That summer he was also selected as the exhibiting artist for the Italian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. His powerful and provocative anti-war installation This is Not a Game was positioned across two different sites with a commentary that observed, ‘Leaders of the world use their armies as if they were some private little toy they can commandeer and destroy as a careless kid would’.
Quinn was invited to exhibit Hand of God and Leap of Faith in the highly significant Hermitage 20/21 project at the Winter Palace in the State Hermitage, St Petersburg, to coincide with the 2011 international White Nights arts festival. Displayed alongside works by Henry Moore, Quinn’s sculptures reflect his creative approach to the passage of time: ‘The past is set in stone, the present is carving itself in wood, and the future is an empty goblet to fill with dreams’.
Quinn’s spring 2012 retrospective at Harrods in London – his first solo exhibition at this world-famed location – presented pieces from the ‘Love’ series, photographic aluminium wall panels and a film exploring his work. One of the highlights of the show was the double sculpture Perfect Relationship (2011): a pair of graceful bronze hands rising from two nautilus fossils, shells that spiral in the proportions of the golden ratio and here symbolise the perfection of soul mates in love. Another prestigious London opportunity was the installation of La Dolce Vita in Park Lane at the end of September 2012.
In the United States, Halcyon Gallery donated Quinn’s The Force of Nature II, a piece created in the wake of the 2009 tsunami, to benefit two non-profit organisations: the Happy Hearts Fund, established to rebuild communities after natural disasters, and the March to the Top Foundation, helping Africans affected by economic poverty. The sculpture, so clearly symbolic of human strength and resilience in the face of adversity, has a specially constructed base with tiers of donor plaques, and proceeds from them went to fund the construction of two new schools. In October 2012, The Force of Nature II was installed at the Paramount Group’s magnificent skyscraper on the Avenue of the Americas in New York. Complementing this pairing of public art with philanthropy was a further placement of The Force of Nature II at a cultural development project on the seafront at Doha in Qatar aiming to encourage and promote the arts.
Full Circle (2013), Quinn’s fifth solo exhibition at Halcyon Gallery, London, marked a pivotal moment in the artist’s career. Following the exhibition on New Bond Street, which ran the length of the summer, Full Circle was showcased at Halcyon Gallery in Harrods towards the end of 2013.
During 2013 and 2014, Quinn exhibited at important international art fairs including Art Monaco ’13; Art Palm Beach; Miami International Art Fair; PINTA, London; SCOPE, New York; and Art Toronto, Canada. During this period he was awarded several public placements, including installation in 2013 of new works Tight Rope II and The Four Loves (alongside The Force of Nature II), on the island of Ibiza.
In February 2014 the toy manufacturer BRUDER Spielwaren GmbH + Co. KG devised, commissioned and donated Quinn’s monumental sculpture Dreams Come True to the city of Fürth in Germany. At 3 by 16 metres, it depicts the hands of a child immersed in the colourful play-world of building and construction, complete with an excavator, dumpster and life-size toy construction workers. Later in the year, Quinn’s sculptures Love and Emotions were donated for auction, raising more than £300,000 for the Sunrise K’ Foundation for children with glaucoma and the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer. In December 2014, Quinn returned to Park Lane to unveil Harmony, his monumental interpretation of the traditional yin and yang symbol, displayed in the UK for the first time.
The significance of Quinn’s work was acknowledged by his selection to mount the inaugural exhibition marking a new partnership between Halcyon Gallery and Gallery Odyssey in association with the Indiabulls Group in Mumbai. The career-defining show In the Hands of Lorenzo Quinn – his first in India – opened in April 2015 and ran throughout the summer. Featuring over 40 pieces, it introduced a new audience to Quinn’s sculpture past and present.
To coincide with the Mumbai exhibition, and as part of Indiabulls’ commitment to supporting art and cultural programmes locally and internationally, key monumental works including Give and Take III, Leap of Faith, Hand of God, The Force of Nature II and Love were displayed to the public within the vast atrium and grounds of their headquarters in Mumbai. In an ongoing sculpture programme, ‘Mine!’ ‘No, Mine!’ was installed in January 2016 followed by The Four Loves, Gravity, The Force of Nature, Harmony and Moments in 2018.
Quinn’s sculptures have continued to be selected as public art to be exhibited at the prestigious Park Lane site in London, with I will Catch you if you Fall installed in September 2015. In dialogue with works such as Harmony, this monumental sculpture reflects the eternal values of love, balance and support integral to human relationships. In the artist’s words, ‘When all around us seems to be kept in a fragile balance it’s important to know that, if it comes tumbling down, there will be someone to catch our fall.’
Halcyon Gallery held an important retrospective exhibition of Quinn’s works in September 2016, demonstrating both his artistic progression and his desire to experiment with new mediums at this stage in his career, as in I will Catch you if you Fall. The show, Lorenzo Quinn, affirmed his position as a leading figurative sculptor of international renown with an impressive legacy.
The monumental sculpture Support was installed in May 2017 in the Grand Canal facing Ca’ Sagredo, in the Cannaregio district of Venice, to coincide with the Venice Biennale. Composed of a child’s hands reaching up from the depths of the Grand Canal to bolster the antique façade of the palace, this new public work engaged boldly with the historical and ecological issues that confront the city today.
In September 2017, a 5-metre The Force of Nature was installed, to dramatic effect, on the top of the Modern Art Museum, Shanghai, China, overlooking the Huangpu River. A Dangerous Game was unveiled in December 2017 at Mana Wynwood during Miami Art Week, Florida. It is the latest in a series of associated works in which Quinn uses a giant child’s hand to highlight concerns about escalating aggression between nations. The exhibition, Actions Not Words, held at Halcyon Gallery, London, from October to December 2017, introduced the public to the artist’s new work.
In 2018, Quinn designed a new sculpture for The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, Empowerment, which depicts the hands of a young woman and a young man holding the world, working together as a beacon of hope for future generations. For another philanthropic project, the artist was commissioned to create Give from the Heart by The Steve and Alexandra Cohen Foundation. The sculpture represents their commitment to inspiring philanthropy and giving back to the community ‘by creating awareness, offering guidance, and leading by example to show the world what giving can do’.
Yet another monumental sculpture, The Force of Nature II was installed at the Jing’an International Centre (JAIC) in Shanghai, China in September 2018. The following month in October 2018, Stop Playing! was installed at Forte Marghera, a military fortress in Venice. The work not only engages with the military history of Venice, but also comments on our need to conserve the world’s natural resources.
In May 2019, during the 58th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, the monumental sculpture Building Bridges was installed in a basin adjacent to the entrance of the Arsenale, in the Castello District of Venice. This new public work, composed of six pairs of monumental hands, individually titled ‘Friendship’, ‘Faith’, ‘Help’, ‘Love’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Wisdom’, aligns with Quinn’s message of world unity and engages with the history of Venice as a meeting point of international history and culture. That same month, the exhibition Possibilità opened at Halcyon Gallery, featuring brand-new work in which Quinn revisits his most fundamental motif – the human figure. The exhibition revealed the full scope of his artistic project, journeying from the traditional methods used to make each sculpture, to the potentiality of his future visions.
Císcar Casabán describes Quinn’s work as ‘profound, spiritual and existential because it deals with the passions we experience as humans and the questions we pose in the silence about ultimate truth … these are sculptures based on great myths, referring to the broad themes that recur in our civilisation and cut across distinctions of culture and time.’