Vik Muniz

© UNESCO/Ania Freindorf
Mr. Vik Muniz, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador

Born in 1961, Vik Muniz began his career as a sculptor in the late 1980s after relocating from Brazil to Chicago and later to New York. His early work grew out of a post-Fluxus aesthetic and often involved visual puns and jokes.Muniz’s work begins to shape its mature form with The Best of Life (1990) where he drew pictures of photographs included in the coffee table book “The Best of Life” from memory after losing the book in a move. The drawings were subsequently photographed and shown as photographs, a practice that Muniz continues.

Muniz followed “The Best of Life” with Equivalents (1993), Pictures of Wire (1994), and Pictures of Thread (1995) in which he developed the other aspect of his characteristic style by making the drawings out of readily recognizable non-art materials (i.e. cotton, wire, or thread). This process of making a drawing out of a nontraditional material and then photographing it has been central to Muniz’s work ever since.

The next major step in his career came with “Sugar Children” (1996) for which he received critical acclaim. The New York Times reviewed the show and Muniz was invited to participate in the 1997-1998 New Photography exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2008, Muniz released the series "Pictures of Cars", which emulate famous paintings such as "Standard Station" and "Norm's on Fire" by L.A. Pop Art master Ed Ruscha. Created from car parts and associated thematic pieces, the monumental photographs range in size to 5' x 10' and represent a tongue in cheek commentary on Los Angeles and it's car culture.

Since then Muniz has gone to work with many materials (chocolate syrup, caviar, diamonds, junk, earthworks and pigment to name a few) and has exhibited his work in major museums and galleries around the world. Recently, Mr. Muniz has curated a show at MoMA as part of the Artist's Choice series and featured the award winning documentary Wasteland (2010).

Filmed over nearly three years, Wasteland follows Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world's largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of "catadores" - or self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz's initial objective was to "paint" the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both dignity and despair as the catadores begin to re-imagine their lives. The work of Vik Muniz in the movie offers stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the human spirit.

On 1999, Vik Muniz was appointed by CNN Time as one of the Latin-American Leaders of the new Millennium. The key feature of Vik Muniz artistic work is the ephemeral nature of life and materials.

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