Dir: Gerry Fox. UK. 2014. 82mins
A simple, stripped-down, one-man documentary about the British artist Marc Quinn (Alison Lapper Pregnant), Making Waves tracks the former YBA for a year as he trots around the globe making and promoting his art. While it lacks a narrative arc that might push it into wider exposure, Making Waves is fascinating and, with some judicious trimming (more Marc Quinn, less Gerry Fox), should enjoy healthy international arts-channel exposure.
The Cambridge-educated Quinn, now 50, maintains a dry sense of humour and inspires the loyalties of his team as he magpies his way through his art, calling it “concrete philosophy, in a way”.
Director Fox, formerly with the South Bank Show, has a wealth of experience in this arena (Making Waves is his second documentary about Quinn, while his most recent art film, on Robert Frank, won multiple awards). His occasional appearances unnecessarily diminish the film to a Melvyn Bragg or Alan Yentob-style TV strand. For anyone interested in the world of modern art and sculpture, Making Waves makes oddly compelling viewing. It’s reminiscent of Ai Wei Wei without the drama of never being sorry (Ai does turn up, and both artists photograph each other compulsively with their iPhones).
Quinn himself, always sporting a baseball cap and shoulder bag, is a likeable character, an amiable, laconic presence who nonetheless is a highly driven artist. There’s a temptation, in the middle of the art gallery madness on display, to view his work through the commercial prism of the marketplace, but Quinn proves himself to be more substantial figure than that.
Like Ai Wei Wei, Quinn relies heavily on teams of highly-skilled artisans combined with volunteers he has “trained” to produce his work. He feeds off the world he lives in – whether that be the waves and shells of the seashore (depicted in the film’s bookends), or the photography produced by conflict – one of his most famous works is his own frozen head, sculpted from his blood, and Alison Lapper, who occupied the fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square, is of course a real person.
Making Waves follows Quinn to a tattoo convention, for example, where he finds a painted and heavily scarred woman and takes a cast of her, and documents his purchase of an ancient, £25,000 Bonsai tree – needless to say, Quinn has embraced the 3D scanner. Then it’s on to Venice, New York, and Miami, where he attends openings and meets with an oddball gallery of celebrity chums, including the late Mark Shand, Jay Jopling, Elton John, and Lionel Ritchie – not to mention the Queen.
The Cambridge-educated Quinn, now 50, maintains a dry sense of humour and inspires the loyalties of his team as he magpies his way through his art, calling it “concrete philosophy, in a way”. It’s commercial enough – he designs watches and t-shirts – but his work is also shown to be incredibly expensive, from a 2.5 metre bronze orchid with 18 levels of paint, to giant embryos, statues, tapestries, and the hoisting of golden shells at the Biennale. “I make my choice to be part of the history of art and not the history of the art market,” says Quinn.
Apart from that, he stands at the sidelines, often urging his teams of technicians and haulers to “give it a spin”. The same could be said of Making Waves – it’s far smaller-scale than any of Quinn’s ambitions, but worth a try nonetheless.
Production company: Foxy Films
International sales: Gerald Fox, + 44 779 884 4761
Producer/cinematography: Gerry Fox
Editor: John Street
With: Marc Quinn