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Contemporary explorations: Marc Quinn's blood head Appeal

Marc Quinn ('Self')
by Marc Quinn
2006
NPG 6863

We have successfully completed the appeal to acquire the cast, Self, by Marc Quinn. We are very grateful for all the donations we have received and for the generous support from the Art Fund and the Henry Moore Foundation.

Unconventional and innovative, challenging and provoking, Self is a self-portrait cast of the artist's head made in 2006 from his own blood and then frozen. Emerging from the YBA movement, Marc Quinn is an artist whose work raises many questions about identity and the nature of portraiture, questions which go close to the heart of the work of the National Portrait Gallery. He is already represented in the Collection by his DNA portrait of the Nobel-prize-winning DNA scientist, Sir John Sulston, commissioned by the Gallery in 2001.

Self has become an enduring image of the Brit Art movement. There is no doubt that in the Gallery's collection this work would become iconic and would be much visited and debated. Needless to say, the Gallery has examined the technical issues very carefully. The work is designed so that it can be melted, recast and refrozen when it has to be moved. It is the fourth in the series so there is extensive experience in handling this sort of work.

The first blood head was made in 1991 and shown in the Sensation exhibition. Since then the artist has made a new cast every five years, documenting his own transformation and ultimate deterioration. The three earlier blood heads are all in overseas collections. The Gallery wants to present the latest in the series in London as a centrepiece in its contemporary collection and as a way of engaging with issues of representation of the human figure in contemporary culture.