She is a contemporary version of the Sphinx. A mystery. There must be something about her that has clicked with the collective unconscious to make her so ubiquitous, so spirit of the age. When people look back at this time she'll be the archetypal image, just as Louise Brooks was in the 1920s. For me as an artist it's interesting to make something about the time I live in
Marc Quinn's depiction of supermodel Kate Moss, Myth (Venus), was inspired by Moss's iconic status yet slightly ambiguous place in our culture: a creature who is admired and observed obsessively, but about whom we have little real knowledge. Her pose fuses the corporeal practice of yoga and cult of feminine beauty in the enduring material of bronze, fashioned to appear as marble. Marc Quinn's decision to render her in a powerful and graceful boat pose further emphases the personality cult of her exposed body that has endured throughout her career. The pose is a marked departure from the stoic contraposto of antiquity which previously typified depictions of Venus. The materiality and imposing nature of the work connects the work to the tradition of feminine beauty from Antiquity while anchoring it squarely in the present.
The contemporary depiction of the female form has constantly grappled with the temporality of the nude figure. Jeff Koons' Bourgeois Bust - Jeff and Ilona further explores modernity's relationship with the traditional marble female nude. While her form is exposed through a thin veiling of jewelry, the male consumer of her body in this case her husband, Jeff Koons, is directly incorporated into the bust. The artist not only touches the subject by sculpting it, but literally continues to touch her body. In a similar vein, Marc Quinn choses to use a contemporary rather than allegorical woman in his monumental sculpture to reinforce the immediacy of the subject.
The monumental scale of the work emphasizes the cultural departure from the deified allegorical female to those of a celebrity. Rather than creating his own idealized form of the female body, he draws from the ever-present celebrity cult to replace the classical muse while giving the work the title Myth (Venus). The present lot draws upon the tradition of classical antiquity and highlights the continue relevance and celebration of the female body in contemporary culture. In the case of the present lot, Kate Moss' body is both an icon prejecting itself outward as well as a receptor onto which the viewer can project and voice his or her own criticism as the consumer.
"To me, this sculpture is an addition to a long lineage of archetypal female images, stretching from the Venus of Willendorf in Prehistoric times, through Nefertiti's bust in Egypt, images of the Virgin, and Botticelli's Birth of Venus in the Renaissance, to Warhol's Marilyn and in my own work...The yoga-like pose, reminiscent of an Indian sculpture of Shiva, is in a contemporary scene about trying to affect spirit through the body. It also seems to symbolize that Kate's image is sculpted by society's collective desire, contorted by outside influences. She is the reflection of ourselves, a knotted Venus for our age, a mirror, a mystery, a sphinx" (Marc Quinn, Marc Quinn, Recent Sculpture, exh. cat., Groningen, 2006, p. 114).
Bust of Queen Nefertiti. Ca. 1350 BCE. Egypt, 18th dynasty. Photo: Margarete Bsing.
Kate Moss, Marrakech, January 1993, Printed 2006 (chromogenic print). Photo by Albert Watson.
Melos, called Venus de Milo. Hellenistic, c. 130-120 BCE. Erich Lessing Art Resource, NY