Marc Quinn brings new exhibition Light into Life to Kew Gardens for summer 2024

Saturday 4 May – Sunday 29 September 2024

Release date: 6 November 2023

·    Marc Quinn to present major exhibition across Kew Gardens, comprising outdoor sculptures and a presentation of works at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art
·    Unique collaboration with Kew’s scientists and horticulturists explores the connections between people and plants through evocative installations
·    More than 20 new works will go on display for the first time at Kew Gardens, alongside existing artworks including Origin of Species, 1993
·    Exhibition included in Kew Gardens general admission; £1 Universal Credit ticket and £10 young person's ticket available

Three images side by side: a bonsai tree on a wall overlooking a vineyard at sunset; black and white portrait of Marc Quinn, a middle-aged white man; a human head sculpted out of coconut water, displayed in a refrigerated unit in a gallery
Light into Life collage © Marc Quinn

For summer 2024 contemporary artist Marc Quinn will present a major exhibition at Kew Gardens exploring the relationship between people and plants. 

Building on the artist’s long-standing interest in nature and the human experience, Light into Life will encompass sculptures and installations across the Gardens alongside a dedicated presentation of works from the 1990s until today in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art. Offering moments of reflection and interaction throughout the gardens, the exhibition examines our complex relationship with the natural world and represents one of the largest site-specific art projects at Kew to date.

Light into Life will feature more than 20 newly conceived artworks, developed through close collaboration with Kew’s scientists and horticulturists. Working with specialists from a variety of fields including taxonomy and plant diversity, Quinn will create pieces based on significant plants from across the collections at Kew, including large-scale sculptures based on herbarium specimens of medicinal plants, telling the vital story of humanity’s reliance on the natural world for life-saving therapeutic treatments. Celebrating the magnificence of Kew’s 175-year-old Palm House, Quinn will create a series of new sculptural portraits of palm leaves based on the Bismarck and Sabal Palms from within the glasshouse. These artworks will be emblematic manifestations of our relationship with trees as sources of shelter, food and the fabric of daily survival for billions of people across the world.  

Accompanying these new commissions will be a selection of existing artworks, many of which explore the idea of nature as a fundamental part of humanity, a prominent focus of Marc Quinn’s practice since the 1990s. Amongst these works is Origin of Species, created in 1993, which will be shown in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art. A frozen self-portrait made of coconut water sourced from Palm trees, the central idea of the sculpture is exemplified by its material, which has long been linked to human survival, including reported claims that it can even be used as an emergency intravenous fluid transfusion. Through this work, Quinn highlights the interdependencies that exist between humans and the natural world and investigates nature as a source of sustenance in extremis. 

Marc Quinn says: "As humans we are not isolated from our environments, we interact and exist within them as a part of nature. Collaborating with Kew, a world-class centre of botanical research, and the team of scientists and horticulturists there, has underlined how integral the natural world is to my practice. The complex science of plants has always - and continues to - inspire my thinking as an artist. I look forward to presenting this extensive new body of work at Kew Gardens for the first time, as well as recontextualising previous works from the past 30 years in this unique and special setting."

Julie Flavell, Interim Head of Visitor Programmes & Exhibitions, adds: “As a visionary artist with a remarkable background in pushing the boundaries of contemporary art, Marc Quinn expertly marries innovation and beauty in his creations. Kew Gardens offers the perfect living backdrop for this spectacular exhibition, and Light into Life promises to be a must-visit for summer 2024, inviting visitors to explore, contemplate, and rediscover their intrinsic connection to the natural world.”

Accompanying books will be published by Kew Publishing. 

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is dedicated to harnessing the power of plants and fungi to end the extinction crisis and secure a future for all life on Earth. With Kew’s world-leading research, global partnerships and beloved gardens – home to the world’s most diverse collections of plants and fungi – Kew is using its trusted voice to shape policy and practice worldwide. As a charity Kew relies on the critical support of its visitors, not only to sustain the gardens, but to protect global plant and fungal biodiversity for the benefit of our planet and humanity.


Image credits from left: Held by Desire (The Dimensions of Freedom), 2017 - 2018. ©Marc Quinn Studio. Photo: Robert Berg. Marc Quinn ©Marc Quinn Studio. Origin of Species, 1993. ©Marc Quinn Studio.

Admission to the exhibition is included in a ticket to Kew Gardens. Pre-booking online offers the best value visit. 

For more information or images, please contact the Press Office at

Notes to Editors


About the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world-famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding collections and scientific expertise in plant and fungal diversity, conservation, and sustainable development in the UK and around the globe. Kew’s scientists and partners lead the way in the fight against biodiversity loss and finding nature-based solutions to the climate crisis, aided by five key scientific priorities outlined in Kew’s Science Strategy 2021-2025. Kew Gardens is also a major international and top London visitor attraction. Kew’s 132 hectares of historic, landscaped gardens, and Wakehurst, Kew’s Wild Botanic Garden and ‘living laboratory’, attract over 2.5 million visits every year. Kew Gardens was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 260th anniversary in 2019. Wakehurst is home to the Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world and a safeguard against the disastrous effects of climate change and biodiversity loss. RBG Kew received approximately one third of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and research councils. Further funding needs to support RBG Kew’s vital scientific and educational work comes from donors, memberships and commercial activity including ticket sales. For tickets, please visit In the first six months since implementing a new accessibility scheme for those in receipt of Universal Credit, Pension Credit and Legacy Benefits, Kew has welcomed over 45,000 visitors with £1 tickets.


About Kew Science

Kew Science is the driving force behind RBG Kew’s mission to understand and protect plants and fungi, for the well-being of people and the future of all life on Earth. Over 470 Kew scientists work with partners in more than 100 countries worldwide to halt biodiversity loss, uncover secrets of the natural world, and to conserve and restore the extraordinary diversity of plants and fungi. Kew’s Science Strategy 2021–2025 lays out five scientific priorities to aid these goals: research into the protection of biodiversity through Ecosystem Stewardship, understanding the variety and evolution of traits in plants and fungi through Trait Diversity and Function; digitising and sharing tools to analyse Kew’s scientific collections through Digital Revolution; using new technologies to speed up the naming and characterisation of plants and fungi through Accelerated Taxonomy; and cultivating new scientific and commercial partnerships in the UK and globally through Enhanced Partnerships. One of Kew’s greatest international collaborations is the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, which has to date stored more than 2.4 billion seeds of over 40,000 wild species of plants across the globe. In 2023, Kew scientists estimated in the State of the World’s Plants and Fungi report that 45% of all known flowering plants are threatened with extinction. 


About Marc Quinn

Marc Quinn, born 1964, is an artist whose wide-ranging practice - encompassing sculpture, painting and drawing - is not easily categorised. Although by nature contemporary, his work connects frequently and meaningfully with art history, from modern masters right back to Classical antiquity. At its centre is an exploration of the multifaceted experience of being human.

Marc Quinn has exhibited internationally in museums and galleries including Tate, London; Kunstverein, Hannover; Fondazione Prada, Milan; MACRO, Rome; and Fondation Beyeler, Basel. Quinn’s work features in collections around the world, including Tate, London; Metropolitan Museum and Guggenheim, New York; SFMOMA, San Francisco; Arario Museum, Seoul; Fondazione Prada, Milan; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris.


About the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art 

Located at Kew Gardens in London, the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art is the world’s first display space dedicated solely to this genre. Since it was opened in 2008 by Sir David Attenborough, the gallery has held over 50 exhibitions, welcomed more than a million visitors, and become the hub of the worldwide renaissance of botanical art. Dr Shirley Sherwood OBE studied botany at Oxford University before starting the Shirley Sherwood Collection in 1990. Thirty years on, the Collection includes over 1,000 paintings and drawings, representing the work of over 300 contemporary botanical artists from 36 countries around the world. The collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has been a huge success, with the gallery showcasing a huge diversity of botanical art, raising the profile of the genre and the plants it portrays. Its walls have seen paintings by renowned artists such as Margaret Mee and Rory McEwen, and collections from Brazil, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Japan, Australia, and the USA. As well as displaying pieces from the Shirley Sherwood Collection, the gallery hosts a roster of genre-pushing exhibitions by independent artists. Recent examples include the intricate graphite drawings of the UK’s oldest oak trees by Mark Frith, an immersive installation by British artist Rebecca Louise Law, and sculptures by Dale Chihuly and David Nash. Recent artists on display in the gallery have included Jan Hendrix, Andrew Parker, Zadok Ben-David, Pip & Pop and Anila Quayyum Agha.