For Quinn, sculpture is primarily an art of communication, a medium through which he aims to help people evolve further in tolerance, understanding and harmony. ‘I make art for myself and for people who wish to come along for a ride through my dreams’, he says. ‘How we live our own lives is of the utmost importance, and most of my work has to do with values and emotions.’
Born on 7 May 1966 in Rome, son of the Mexican-American actor Anthony Quinn and his second wife, costume designer Iolanda Addolori, Lorenzo Quinn had a childhood split between Italy and the United States of America. 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 architecture.
Lorenzo Quinn studied at the American Academy of Fine Arts in New York, planning to be a Surrealist painter. However, at 21 he decided that his future lay in sculpture, which could better accommodate his energy and originality. 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… the way it values people and family, and for its great artistic trajectory’, he comments.
In his twenties Quinn had a brief acting career, including playing alongside his father in Stradivari (1989) and an acclaimed performance as Salvador Dalí. However, he did not enjoy working in the profession and decided to concentrate purely on sculpture.
Among the artists whose influence Quinn cites are Michelangelo, Bernini and Rodin. His 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 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 explanation.
Quinn’s work appears in many private collections throughout the world and has been exhibited internationally during the past 20 years. Among his commissions is The Tree of Life, produced for the United Nations and issued by the organisation as a stamp in 1993. The following year the Vatican engaged him to sculpt the likeness of Saint Anthony for the Basilica del Santo in Padua, in commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the saint’s birth; the sculpture was blessed by the pope in St Peter’s Square, Rome, in front of a crowd of 35,000.
Quinn’s public art includes Encounters, a massive globe enclosing a pointing hand, which was unveiled in 2003 opposite the Museum of Modern Art in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. In Birmingham, his 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. Further works are on display at King Edward’s Wharf – Creation, Volare and Crossing a Millennium – with their characteristic focus on the hand, the human form and the circle.
In November 2005 one of Quinn’s largest public sculptures, Rise Through Education, was installed at ASPIRE, the Academy of Sports Excellence, in Doha, commissioned by the state of Qatar. Quinn created a second sculpture for the interior of the academy to depict striving for excellence; Reaching for Gold is a pyramid of seven arms emerging from a base of sand, the hands straining towards a medal.
Unique among his works as a living monument, Legacy (2006) was sculpted for Sant Climent de Llobregat in Spain. Quinn was fascinated by the story of the town’s cherry trees and decided to make a piece that reflected this tale. The tree-trunk is formed by a male and a female hand holding branches laden with cherries arranged to simulate human DNA. In this area famed for its juicy cherries, the sculpture carries as many fruit as there are people living in Sant Climent; each year further cherries will be added to represent new inhabitants.
In 2008 Evolution, a major exhibition of Quinn’s output, was chosen to inaugurate the new premises of Halcyon Gallery in Mayfair, London. Many of the sculptures in Evolution featured the symbol that has become synonymous with Quinn: the human hand. ‘I wanted to sculpt what is considered the hardest and most technically challenging part of the human body’, he explains. ‘The hand holds so much power – the power to love, to hate, to create, to destroy. I have injected a lifetime of experience into Evolution; it is about my past, present and future.’
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. Included in the show were several important new sculptures, including What Came First? – male and female forms lying in egg-shaped hemispheres – and Home Sweet Home – a marble woman cocooned in barbed wire. 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.’
In summer 2010, Quinn’s sculpture, Vroom Vroom was on show at the Institute of Modern Art in Valencia and later that year at the Abu Dhabi Art Fair. January 2011 saw Vroom Vroom installed on Park Lane, London, as part of Westminster Council’s City of Sculpture Festival. Also in January, a 3 meter bronze version of Finding Love was unveiled at the entrance of the newly opened One Hyde Park building in Knightsbridge coinciding with two further public placements of his monumental sculpture; Force of Nature II in Berkeley Square, Mayfair and Volare in Cadogan Gardens, Chelsea. These four sculptures firmly launched Halcyon Gallery’s public sculpture trail exhibition in the city of London.
2010 was also marked with several international exhibitions, including at the Rarity Gallery in Greece, the Marigold Gallery in India, the Rafart Gallery in Spain, the Heward Art Gallery in Saudi Arabia and the Ode to Art Gallery in Singapore.
In spring 2011, Lorenzo Quinn was invited to participate in the first ever Biennale di Scultura, an exhibition of outdoor sculpture in Rome (24th May – 31 th July 2011). Selected from a series of significant contemporary and historical international sculptors, Quinn exhibited La Dolce Vita, at Casina Valadier, Villa Borghese, Rome, near the Spanish Steps. Quinn says that for him this piece represents the ‘joie de vivre’ of the age of La Dolce Vita as described to him by his father, “…and the sense of total abandonment to the child within.”
In summer 2011 Lorenzo Quinn was selected as the exhibiting artist for the Italian Pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale, (4thJune – 27th November 2011). His powerful and provocative installation This is Not a Game was positioned across two different sites at the Biennale, the Italian Pavilion in the Arsenale and San Servolo Island, Venice. The first stage of the installation situated on San Servolo Island features a life-size T55 Russian battle tank and life-size cast ‘toy’ soldiers, held by life-like giant hands, poised in positioning the tank and soldiers, as a child would in play. The second stage of the installation was exhibited at the Italian Pavilion, curated by Vittoro Sgarbi.
Later in 2011 Lorenzo Quinn was invited to exhibit Leap of Faith and Hand of God at the Winter Palace in the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (24th June – 17th September 2011). The sculptures were displayed at the Winter Palace, alongside an exhibition and installation of outdoor sculptures by Henry Moore. The installations, curated by Ekaterina Lopatkina, Curator of Contemporary Art at the State Hermitage Museum, coincided with ‘White Nights’ the world-famous annual event.
The opportunity to display the two works at the Hermitage marked a turning point in Quinn’s career. He says of his inspiration behind Leap of Faith, “The past is set in stone, the present is carving itself in wood, and the future is an empty goblet to fill with dreams. This is a sculpture that prompts reflection on the need to be positive, even in the darkest moments, because there is always hope.”
“Life is a wonderful endless journey… if you know how to live it.”