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. ‘I wanted to sculpt what is considered the hardest and most technically challenging part of the human body’, he asserts. ‘The hand holds so much power – the power to love, to hate, to create, to destroy.’
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 studied at the American Academy of Fine Arts in New York, planning to be a Surrealist painter. However, aged 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 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. Among his commissions is the Tree of Life, produced for the United Nations and issued by the organisation as a stamp in 1993. The follolwing year 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; 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, 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.
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’.
The high esteem in which Quinn is held was borne out by his invitation 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. In his mission statement about the project, director of the Hermitage Museum Mikhail B. Piotrovsky writes, ‘We want to create a collection of works that will become history tomorrow. Actual art can be called a mirror of modern culture that reflects all of us. Therefore, the Hermitage 20/21 is addressed to those people who want to be up-to-date, for both amateurs and professionals, savvy connoisseurs and the youngest viewers.’ 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’.