Commissioned Portraits – Jonathan Baxter

Marc Quinn for the Fourth Plinth at Trafalgar Square

Alison Lapper Pregnant September 2005 – October 2007

Alison Lapper Pregnant

Marc Quinn’s sculpture Alison Lapper Pregnant was the first new commission for the Fourth Plinth under the auspices of the Mayor of London’s Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group and it garnered significant public interest as well as global media attention. Alison Lapper is a critically acclaimed British artist. She has the medical condition phocomelia.

Here’s how Marc Quinn described the sculpture:‘The sculpture is a portrait of Alison Lapper when she was 8½ months pregnant. It is carved out of one block of white marble and stands 3.55 metres high. At first glance it would seem that there are few if any public sculptures of people with disabilities. However, a closer look reveals that Trafalgar Square is one of the few public spaces where one exists: Nelson on top of his column has lost an arm. I think that Alison’s portrait reactivates this dormant aspect of Trafalgar Square. Most public sculpture, especially in the Trafalgar Square and Whitehall areas, is triumphant male statuary. Nelson’s Column is the epitome of a phallic male monument and I felt that the square needed some femininity, linking with Boudicca near the Houses of Parliament. Alison’s statue could represent a new model of female heroism.‘In the past, heroes such as Nelson conquered the outside world. Now it seems to me they conquer their own circumstances and the prejudices of others, and I believe that Alison’s portrait will symbolise this. I’m not physically disabled myself but from working with disabled sitters I realised how hidden different bodies are in public life and media. Her pregnancy also makes this a monument to the possibilities of the future.’Marc Quinn was born in London in 1964, and graduated from Cambridge in 1986.

His work addresses ideas of mortality and survival.

Marc Quinn has published a book about the Fourth Plinth project. The book traces the inspiration for the work — through Quinn’s drawings, references (such as the Venus de Milo) and early maquettes — to its creation — the casting of Alison Lapper and carving in Italy — and installation in Trafalgar Square.

Sam Taylor-Wood for the National Portrait Gallery

David BY Sam Taylor-Wood

A museum visitor views Sam Taylor-Wood's art installation of David Beckham sleeping in the National Portrait Gallery, where it was displayed in 2004. Photograph: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images
A museum visitor views Sam Taylor-Wood’s art installation of David Beckham sleeping in the National Portrait Gallery, where it was displayed in 2004. Photograph: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

A new video portrait of David Beckham by international artist Sam Taylor-Wood will go on display at the National Portrait Gallery from Tuesday 27 April 2004. The portrait has been commissioned by the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery and made possible by JPMorgan through the Fund for New Commissions.

David is an intimate portrait, which was shot in a single long take. Beckham was filmed sleeping, after training in Madrid. Simply lit from one light source this rich, painterly film presents a reverential and vulnerable image of this international football icon.

Sam Taylor-Wood (b.1967) graduated from Goldsmiths College in 1990. Her work in photography and film has won her much international critical acclaim, including the Illy Café Prize for Most Promising Young Artist at the Venice Biennale (1997) and a Turner Prize nomination (1998). Taylor-Wood is at the forefront of the new generation of contemporary British art. Since her first solo exhibition at White Cube in 1995, she has had numerous solo exhibitions, including being the youngest artist ever to be granted a solo exhibition at The Hayward Gallery. Taylor-Wood is currently working with Ray Winstone on a feature film based on the life of William Blake and will be exhibiting a new body of work in September 2004 in New York.

Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery, said : “Sam Taylor-Wood offers a compelling view of David Beckham as he lies asleep. It is an intriguing and intimate portrait of one of England’s finest footballers and we are delighted that we have been able to commission it with the support of JPMorgan.”

Sam Taylor-Wood said : “Making a portrait of a much-photographed man like David Beckham was a challenge. I wanted to create a direct, closely observed study. Filming while he was asleep produces a different view from the many familiar, public images”.

JPMorgan said : “We are proud to continue our long-standing commitment to the arts through the creation of the Fund for New Commissions with the National Portrait Gallery. We believe that investment in this fund will provide a platform for future development of new portraits and encourage the ongoing support for new and emerging artists.”

Ron Mueck for Paula Rego and Charles Sattchi 

“Although I spend a lot of time on the surface, it’s the life inside I want to capture.” (Ron Mueck, 1998)

Angel 1997 Silicone rubber and mixed media 110 x 87 x 81 cm   43¼ x 34¼ x 32" Pinocchio 1996 Polyester resin, fibreglass and human hair 83.8 x 20 x 20 cm    33 x 8 x 8"
Angel 1997 Silicone rubber and mixed media 110 x 87 x 81 cm 43¼ x 34¼ x 32″
Pinocchio 1996 Polyester resin, fibreglass and human hair 83.8 x 20 x 20 cm 33 x 8 x 8″

London-based sculptor Ron Mueck is known for his startlingly realistic yet enigmatic sculptures that portray humans at key stages in the life cycle, from birth through middle age, to death. In works that are either monumental in scale or undersized, he explores the human condition and psyche, often conveying feelings of loneliness, vulnerability and alienation.

In 1996, Mueck came to the attention of collector Charles Saatchi, who saw his half sized figure Pinocchio in the studio of the painter Paula Rego, Mueck’s mother-in-law. Saatchi commissioned more work by Mueck, who began with an oversized baby, as a response to the birth of his child and the baby’s sudden domination of the household. In 1997, Mueck achieved immediate international recognition when his Dead Dad appeared in the controversial exhibition Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection, a show that one critic summarized as “realism with a vengeance.”

Big Baby 1996 Polyester resin, fibreglass and human hair 85 x 71 x 70 cm   33½ x 28 x 27½" Big Baby 3 1996-97 Polyester resin and mixed media 86 x 81 x 70 cm    34 x 32 x 27½"
Big Baby 1996 Polyester resin, fibreglass and human hair 85 x 71 x 70 cm 33½ x 28 x 27½”
Big Baby 3 1996-97 Polyester resin and mixed media 86 x 81 x 70 cm 34 x 32 x 27½”

In 1996 Paula Rego wanted to make a painting about the story of Pinocchio, and she invited Mueck to make a model for her. The model happened to be seen by the entrepreneur and art collector, Charles Saatchi, and he was so impressed that he invited Mueck to make a number of works for him on commission. One of these works, Dead dad, made Mueck’s reputation. It was featured in the controversial exhibition, Sensation, which featured works from the Saatchi collection, and was shown to huge audiences at the Royal Academy in London.

Dead dad was a hyper-realistic sculpture of Mueck’s dead father, naked, lying on the floor, so that you could easily trip over him, especially because he was only three feet long. This extraordinary work had huge emotional power, and many visitors remembered it well. Mueck makes work very slowly, taking on average four weeks for each work, although Pregnant woman took much longer, being his most ambitious work to date. By 2002, when Pregnant woman was made, he had created only 30 sculptures in total.

More than anything, Mueck is a perfectionist, with a passionate and dedicated approach to verisimilitude.

Among the works which gained Mueck his growing reputation was Angel, an undersized boy seated on a stool with two huge angel wings, made from goose feathers. Mueck was inspired to create this work by the painting by Giambattista Tiepolo which is in the National Gallery, London, on the theme made famous by Handel, the Triumph of Virtue, Time and Truth.

It is great that Pregnant woman is in close proximity to our work by Tiepolo [Marriage allegory (Marriage allegory of the Cornaro family) c.1737–1747], whom Mueck so admired. Mueck is an intensely private man, never wishing to even be at his own exhibition openings, but there is an intensity of engagement in his work which shows his strong interests.

He does not wish to tell us stories about his work, because it is for us to bring our stories to them.


noun: verisimilitude

  1. the appearance of being true or real.

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