Vik Muniz

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Vik Muniz
Vic Muniz World Economic Forum 2013.jpg
Muniz at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in 2013
Vicente José de Oliveira Muniz

(1961-12-20) December 20, 1961 (age 61)
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Known forVisual art

Vik Muniz (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈvik muˈnis]; born 1961)[1] is a Brazilian artist and photographer. Initially a sculptor, Muniz grew interested with the photographic representations of his work, eventually focusing completely on photography. Primarily working with unconventional materials such as tomato sauce, diamonds, magazine clippings, chocolate syrup, dust, dirt, etc., Muniz creates works of art, referencing old master's paintings and celebrity portraits, among other things, and then photographs them.[2][3] His work has been met with both commercial success and critical acclaim, and has been exhibited worldwide. He is currently represented by Galeria Nara Roesler based in New York and Brazil.[3]

In 2010, Muniz was featured in the documentary film Waste Land. Directed by Lucy Walker, the film highlights Muniz's work on one of the world's largest garbage dumps, Jardim Gramacho, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. The film was nominated to the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 83rd Academy Awards.[4][5]

Early life[edit]

Vik Muniz was born in 1961 in São Paulo, Brazil, as the only child of Maria Celeste, a telephone operator, and Vincente Muniz, a restaurant waiter.[6] Muniz’s grandmother, Ana Rocha, taught him how to read at an early age. In his memoir, Muniz recalled struggling with writing in school which is why he turned to visuals to communicate his thoughts.[7] At the age of 14, his math teacher recommended him to enter an art contest. He won and was awarded a partial scholarship to an art studio.[8][7]


Early career[edit]

At the age of 18, Muniz got his first job working in the advertising industry in Brazil, redesigning billboards for higher readability.[9] While on the way to his first black-tie gala, Muniz witnessed and attempted to break up a street fight, where he was accidentally shot in the leg by one of the brawlers. He was paid by the shooter to not press charges and used the money to travel to the USA ,Chicago, in 1983. In Chicago, Muniz worked at a local supermarket cleaning the parking lot while he attended night school to study English. In the English class, he learned Polish, Italian, Spanish, and Korean without any improvements to his English vocabulary. Later, Muniz attended culinary and carpentry classes where he learned most of his English.[9]

Muniz took his first trip to New York in 1984. There, he visited the Museum of Modern Art and met a woman who changed his thoughts on Jackson Pollock’s paintings. This also influenced Muniz to move to New York just two months after his first visit.[9] Muniz's friend lent him a studio where he started his career as a sculptor. He was 28 when he had his first solo exhibit in 1989.[7]

Influences and technique[edit]

Action Photo, After Hans Namuth, 1997

Inspired by works of Man Ray and Max Ernst, Muniz executes simple imagery intricately.[10] Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media encouraged Muniz to explore perception in the media through abstraction and manipulating the components of the image.[9] He cites the mosaics in a church in Ravenna as one of his influences and is also a self-proclaimed student of Buster Keaton.[11] He decided to become an artist after seeing the works of the Postmodernists Cindy Sherman and Jeff Koons.[8] Muniz, like both of these artists, reworks popular imagery in his work. Muniz says that he does not believe in originals, but rather believes in individuality.[11] Muniz works to re-purpose themes and showcase them in a different light for the viewer.[2]

Vik Muniz with his Perfect Strangers photographs, a project for MTA on 72nd Street, 2016

Muniz is best known for recreating famous imagery from art history and pop culture with unexpected, everyday objects, and photographing them. For example, Muniz's Action Photo, After Hans Namuth (From Pictures of Chocolate), a Cibachrome print, is a Bosco Chocolate Syrup recreation of one of Hans Namuth's photographs of Jackson Pollock in his studio. The monumental series Pictures of Cars (after Ruscha) is his social commentary of the car culture of Los Angeles utilizing Ed Ruscha's 60's Pop masterpieces rendered from car ephemera. Muniz often works on a large scale and then he destroys the originals of his work and only the photo of his work remains.[11]

Muniz has spoken of wanting to make "color pictures that talked about color and also talked about the practical simplification of such impossible concepts." He also has an interest in making pictures that "reveal their process and material structure," and describes himself as having been "a willing bystander in the middle of the shootout between structuralist and post-structuralist critique."

Muniz says that when he takes photographs, he intuitively searches for "a vantage point that would make the picture identical to the ones in my head before I’d made the works," so that his photographs match those mental images. He sees photography as having "freed painting from its responsibility to depict the world as fact."

In Muniz's earthworks series, Pictures of Earthworks, show a strong resemblance to the 1970s Earthworks movement. However unlike the Earthworks movement, that were influenced by ancient cultures, Muniz's series shows distinct human impact on nature.[12]

Political and social themes[edit]

In addition to sculpting, Muniz experiments with drawing and photography, which is seen in the series Sugar Children, featured in the Museum of Modern Art's New Photography 13 show, alongside Rineke Dijikstra, An-My Le, and Kunié Sugiura, in 1997. In Sugar Children, Muniz photographed the families that worked on sugar plantations on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. Beginning with Polaroids of several of the children of plantation workers, Muniz "drew" the images by sprinkling sugar on black paper and rephotographed these compositions. This series was met with criticism, where scholars have pointed out that he photographs of subjects continuing to live in poverty and yet can make upwards of 5 figures on these works at auction.[8]

After his Pictures in Garbage series, Muniz donated the profits, close to $50,000, from the Marat (Sebastiao) to the workers collective after it was auctioned in the UK. He also tries to make art more accessible through the use of common materials, because of his belief that the art world should not be just for the elite.[13] Muniz stated in the documentary Waste Land, "I'm at this point in my career where I'm trying to step away from the realm of fine arts because I think it's a very exclusive, very restrictive place to be. What I want to be able to do is to change the lives of people with the same materials they deal with every day."[8]


  • Clayton Days – Published by Frick Art & Historical Center, 2000. ISBN 0970342500 [14]
  • Jelly, Garbage + Toys: Making Pictures with Vik Muniz – Published by Harry N. Abrams, 2017. ISBN 1419725750 [15]
  • Natura Pictrix : Interviews and Essays on Photography – Published by New York : Edgewise, 2003. ISBN 189320717X [16]
  • Vik Muniz: Model Pictures – Published by The Menil Foundation, 2002. ISBN 9780939594535 [17]
  • Vik Muniz. – Published by Gary Tatintsian Gallery, 2007.[18]
  • Vik Muniz: Reflex: A Vik Muniz Primer. – Published by Aperture, 2005. ISBN 9781931788403 [17]
  • Vik Muniz: Verso – Published by Verlag für moderne Kunst, 2019 ISBN 9782330004576 [6][17]

Solo exhibitions (selected)[edit]

To see the full list of selected solo exhibitions, visit his website

Curatorial projects[edit]

  • Buzz. Curated by Vik Muniz, Galeria Nara Roesler (Roesler Hotel #21), São Paulo, Brazil. December 1, 2012 – February 16, 2013.[39]
  • Rio de Janeiro Art Week, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. July 22 – 29, 2010.[1]
  • Robert Mapplethorpe. Curated by Vik Muniz. Fortes Vilaça Gallery. São Paulo, Brazil. March 4 – April 9, 2009.[1]
  • Artist’s Choice: Vik Muniz, Rebus. MoMA – Museum of Modern Art. New York, NY. December 11, 2008 – February 23, 2009.[40]
  • Haptic: Three Brazilian and Three Japanese Artists. Tokyo Wonder Site. Hongo, Tokyo, Japan. November 22, 2008 – January 12, 2009.[1]
  • Robert Mapplethorpe. Curated by Vik Muniz. Fortes Vilaça Gallery, São Paulo, Brazil. March 4 – April 9, 2006.[1]
  • Identity V. Curated by Hiroshi Minamishima. Nichido Contemporary Art. Tokyo, Japan. June 26 – July 25, 2005.[1]
  • L’Empire bresilien et ses photograhes: collections de la Bibliotheque nationale du Brésil et de L’Institute Moreira Salles. “L’horizont Perdu.” Musée d’Orsay, Paris. 2005.[1]
  • Vik Muniz. Curated by Miguel Fernandez-Cid. Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art. Indianapolis, IN. February – March, 2003.[1]
  • Making it Real. Catalogue ed. Independent Incorporated, NY. ICI – Independent Curators International, 1997 (traveling exhibition).[41]


  • 2013 – Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum. Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.[42]
  • 2010 – Honored with the Ordem do Ipiranga by the governor José Serra. São Paulo, Brazil, March 17.[43]
  • 2009 – Honored with the Medalha da Inconfidência by the governor of Minas Gerais, Mr. Aécio Neves. Minas Gerais, Brazil, April 21.[1]
  • 2009 – Honored with the Prêmio Cidadão Carioca by the State of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.[1]
  • 2008 – Honored at CITYarts’ 40th Anniversary sponsored by Dr. Miriam & Sheldon G. Adelson, Candia Fisher, Winston Fisher, and chaired by Jane Holzer. New York, NY.[1]
  • 2007 – Society for News Design Annual Creative Competition Award of Excellence in the category of Magazine Cover Design for the cover of The New York Times Magazine.[1]
  • 2005 – Premio Villa de Madrid de Fotografía “Kaulak" awarded by the Ayuntamiento de Madrid, Madrid, Spain.[43]
  • 2005 – National Artist Award granted by the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Aspen, Colorado.[1]
  • 1999 – Líderes Latinoamericanos para el Nuevo Milenio. CNN Time. NY, USA.[1]
  • 1998 – Best Photography Exhibition, Second Place: Vik Muniz: Seeing is Believing. Awarded by The International Center of Photography and curated by Charles Stainback.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Vik Muniz Bio". Vik Muniz. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b Ollman, Arthur (2016). Vik Muniz. DelMonico Books-Prestel. ISBN 978-3791355191.
  3. ^ a b "Galeria Nara Roesler". Ocula.
  4. ^ "Waste Land". wastelandmovie. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  5. ^ Ryzik, Melena (February 2, 2011). "Documentary Drama at the Oscars". The New York Times. Retrieved February 15, 2013.
  6. ^ a b Muniz, Vik (May 2018). Vik Muniz : Verso. ISBN 978-3903228740.
  7. ^ a b c Muniz, Vik (2005). Reflex : a Vik Muniz primer (First ed.). New York: Aperture. ISBN 1931788405. OCLC 56653406.
  8. ^ a b c d La Force, Thessaly (February 2016). "Master of Illusions". Apollo. 183: 46–52.
  9. ^ a b c d Muniz, Vik. (2011). Vik Muniz : le musée imaginaire. Mézil, Éric., Capitani, Jean-Paul., Muniz, Vik., Collection Lambert (Avignon, France) (1re éd ed.). Arles: Actes Sud. ISBN 9782330004576. OCLC 775989928.
  10. ^ Muniz, Vik. (2003). Vik Muniz. Cameron, Dan., Fernández-Cid, Miguel., Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea., Irish Museum of Modern Art (Kilmainham, Dublin, Ireland), Fundación Telefónica (Madrid, Spain). [Santiago de Compostela?]: Xunta de Galicia. ISBN 8445337238. OCLC 54773765.
  11. ^ a b c Magill, Mark (Fall 2000). "Vik Muniz". Bomb (Usa) (73): 28–35. JSTOR 40426115.
  12. ^ Schwendener, Martha (June 2002). "Vik Muniz". Artforum (USA). 40: 177–178.
  13. ^ Musiol, Hannah (Summer 2002). "Museums of Human Bodies". College Literature. 40 (3): 156–175. doi:10.1353/lit.2013.0034.
  14. ^ "Selected Publications by and about Vik Muniz | VikMuniz". Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  15. ^ "JELLY, GARBAGE + TOYS | VikMuniz". Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  16. ^ "Natura Pictrix | VikMuniz". Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  17. ^ a b c "Vik Muniz Photography Monographs and Exhibition Catalogs". Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  18. ^ Vik Muniz. Moscow: Gary Tatintsian Gallery. 2007. ISBN 978-978-5-990683.
  19. ^ "Personal exhibition at Gary Tatintsian Gallery, Moscow".
  20. ^ "Vik Muniz: Verso". Mauritshuis. Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  21. ^ "Vik Muniz: Poetics of Perception". Taubman Museum of Art. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
  22. ^ "MUNTREF - VIK MUNIZ BUENOS AIRES". Retrieved 2019-04-15.
  23. ^ "Vik Muniz: Pictures of Anything - Tel Aviv Museum of Art". Retrieved 2019-04-15.
  24. ^ "espelhos de papel - 2.4 - 11.5.2013". Nara Roesler. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
  25. ^ "Vik Muniz - Centro de arte contemporáneo de Málaga". Retrieved 2019-04-15.
  26. ^ "MASP". MASP (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  27. ^ "ARNDT - VIK MUNIZ (2008)". Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  28. ^ "Imaginary Prisons G.B. Piranesi and Vik Muniz at National Gallery Of Victoria International (2007) · Australian Prints + Printmaking". Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  29. ^ "MoMA PS1: Exhibitions: Vik Muniz: Reflex". Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  30. ^ "Vik Muniz: Reflex". Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  31. ^ "Exhibitions". The Menil Collection. Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  32. ^ Drutt, Matthew. (2002). Vik Muniz : model pictures. Muniz, Vik., Menil Collection (Houston, Tex.). Houston, Tex.: Menil Collection. ISBN 0939594536. OCLC 49684477.
  33. ^ Muniz, Vik. (2000). Clayton days : picture stories by Vik Muniz for very little folks. Muniz, Vik., Frick Art & Historical Center. (1st ed.). Pittsburgh, PA: Frick Art & Historical Center. ISBN 0970342500. OCLC 47241470.
  34. ^ "Clayton Days | Revisited: A Project by Vik Muniz | VikMuniz". Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  35. ^ Muniz, Vik. (1999). Vik Muniz. Galassi, Peter., Durand, Régis., Centre national de la photographie (France), Renos Xippas (Gallery), Caisse des dépôts et consignations (France). Paris: Centre national de la photographie. ISBN 2867541239. OCLC 43096584.
  36. ^ "Vik Muniz: Seeing is believing | Museum of Contemporary Photography". Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  37. ^ Muniz, Vik. (1998). Vik Muniz : seeing is believing. Stainback, Charles, 1952-, Durant, Mark Alice. (1st ed.). Santa Fe, N.M.: Arena Editions. ISBN 1892041006. OCLC 40145940.
  38. ^ "Vik Muniz - Exhibitions - Lio Malca". Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  39. ^ "roesler hotel #21 -- buzz - 1.12.2012 - 16.2.2013". Nara Roesler. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  40. ^ "Artist's Choice: Vik Muniz, Rebus at the Museum of Modern Art". artcritical. 23 February 2009. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  41. ^ "Making it Real - Exhibitions - Independent Curators International". Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  42. ^ "World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2013" (PDF). World Economic Forum. p. 7.
  43. ^ a b "Vik Muniz Catalogue". Retrieved 2019-04-14.

External links[edit]