National Portrait Gallery acquires Marc Quinn's bloody head

  • @arifa_akbar

'Self', Marc Quinn's visceral sculpture made of nine pints of his frozen blood, fast became one of the most recognisable works from Charles Saatchi’s collection of works by the "Young British Artists" in the 1990s.

When it was first exhibited, it drew gasps of repulsion and admiration alike. It created an even greater stir when it was reported to have half melted after Saatchi’s wife, Nigella Lawson, accidentally switched the fridge off.

Luckily, Quinn has made three more since the original, the latest of which has been bought by the National Portrait Gallery.

It is the first cast in the series of four sculptures - which Quinn has pledged to produce every five years to catalogue the ageing process - that has been bought by a museum collection in Britain. The other three sculptures are in New York, Dallas and Korea, both in private hands and public galleries.

Quinn, who said the work was inspired by Rembrandt's self portraits, refused to confirm whether the original had to be remade after the reported accident by Lawson, but said it was now fully in tact with its owner, the hedge fund billionaire, Steve Cohen, in New York.

This latest 'Self' shows Quinn looking older but wiser since his original from 1991 which took pride of place in Saatchi’s exhibition called 'Sensation' at the Royal Academy. It was bought for £300,000 by the NPG, with the help of The Art Fund, and Henry Moore Foundation, and it will be displayed in the gallery's permanent collection, in a case whose temperature is set at minus 18 degrees to prevent it from melting.

Quinn said 'Self' had been driven by his desire "to push portraiture to an extreme, a representation which not only has the form of the sitter, but is actually made from the sitter's flesh."

Quinn’s second 'Self', made in 1996, was bought by Texan collectors Cindy and Howard Rachofsky. It is now partly owned with the Dallas Museum of Art, where it will ultimately remain as a full gift. The 2001 sculpture belongs to the Korean collector, Kim Chang-il (known as C.I. Kim), who has a private museum in a shopping complex he owns in Cheonan, outside Seoul.