Vik Muniz: One Man’s Trash

More than twenty million items were lost in last September’s fire at Brazil’s National Museum, which housed Latin America’s largest anthropology and natural history collection. As archaeologists and paleontologists sift through the rubble, the U.S. Department of State and the Smithsonian have offered fourteen on the scientists, who were displaced by the fire, the opportunity to use the Smithsonian’s labs to continue their work. The global community, including governments and cultural organizations, have pledged to help to rebuild the museum.

Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, who was very outspoken about the lack of government funding and concern about Brazil’s cultural institutions, is also working with Brazil’s National Museum, to recreate relics that were destroyed in the fire, relics that will be shown to benefit rescue efforts for the museum.

Trash to Treasure

Since his 2010 documentary Waste Land (where he hired garbage pickers at the world’s largest landfill located just outside of Rio de Janeiro to make art) earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature, Muniz has been curating exhibitions and creating art in his studios in Rio and Clinton Hill in Brooklyn.

He curated Glasstress in Murano, Italy, an exhibit that features works, in glass, by leading contemporary artist from around the world. The exhibit opened in May and will continue through November 24, 2019.

Vik Muniz Sculpture in London

Muniz is also participating in this year’s Frieze Sculpture fair, which is currently holding the largest free exhibit of outdoor art in London. His work is displayed, along with the works of twenty other artists, in Regent’s Park.

His contribution to the fair is Mnemonic Vehicle No.2,  a giant sculpture of a Jaguar E-type Matchbox car, complete with scrapes and dings and all the signs of wear and tear that come with playing with a favorite toy. “The piece is a perfect reconstruction of a Matchbox from my childhood,” he said, “that I found in a drawer on the scale of the real car and the same materials.”

Vik Muniz Saints at Arles

For the last fifty years, photographers in France have been exhibiting their work at the Recontres D’Arles. Ansel Adams was the first American photographer to be invited to exhibit in 1974, and the inclusion of world renown photographers has been part of the program ever since.

This year, the exhibit includes nineteen photographs of Muniz’s, which depict saints as painted by the Masters, like Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness, after Caravaggio.

Each work is a detailed collage, made of everyday objects, like buttons, sugar, torn paper, which Muniz creates and photographs. The work will be on display through September 29, 2019.

Vik Muniz at VFA

Vik Muniz use of everything from chocolate to trash in his works, led to his commission of Kate Moss, done in fake blood for Brazilian Vogue. Kate and other works, in other medium, by Vik Muniz are available at VFA.

See More Vik Muniz Artwork for Sale

Meilan Solly. Around 2,000 Artifacts Have Been Saved From the Ruins of Brazil’s National Museum Fire. February 15, 2019.
Ann Binlot. Vik Muniz, the Brooklyn artist giving Brazil’s destroyed relics new life. Document Journal. May 21, 2019.
Vik Muniz: Reaction to Brazil Museum Fire

Vik Muniz: Reaction to Brazil Museum Fire

On the night of September 2, a fire spread through the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, destroying 90 per cent of its collection…about 20 million items.

Brazilian artist, Vik Muniz, reacted to the fire as many other Brazilians did, with great sorrow. Muniz posted an Instagram message, which read, “Five years ago I temporarily lost my memory after a motorcycle accident and it struck me deeply. Worse than death is the full awareness of loss. There is no worse dread and sadness than not being able to remember what you have been and loved to be, of the things, people, and events that made you what you are. The National Museum in Quinta da Boa Vista, at this moment, burns in flames and with it a significant part of our past. It is extremely sad to think that a country is built on its history, and that from now on our future will have to be erected on the precarious ashes and rubble inherited from an inveterate neglect of our cultural and material heritage. The memory with the ashes in a chronic amnesia of overwhelming consequences goes, especially at a time when our deficit with reality becomes something really disturbing. This is a time of great shame and sadness for us and for those in whom we entrust the custody of our history.”

The museum, a palace that was once the home of Brazilian royalty, was founded in 1818 and housed one of the largest collections of natural history and anthropological artifacts in the Americas.

The exact cause of the fire has not yet been determined. Tragically, the building’s smoke detectors were not working and the fire hydrants near the museum didn’t have water in them, so firefighters had to bring water to the site from a nearby pond.

The museum has been underfunded for years, so underfunded that the museum’s own employees got together to cover the cleaning staff’s salaries.

Muniz, like many other Brazilians, was saddened by the fire. Much criticism was leveled at the government for spending massive amounts of money for the 2016 Olympics and the FIFA World Cup in 2014, but leaving institutions for the arts and sciences poorly funded.  The BBC reported that, in the last 10 years alone, fires have destroyed eight buildings in Brazil dedicated to science and the arts.

Brazil is currently undergoing a political and economic crisis. The outcry of Brazil’s art and science community may help to preserve what is left of the country’s rich heritage.

Vik Muniz at the Chrysler Museum

The Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia is currently exhibiting a wide range of Muniz’s work. Photography and the Rebirth of Wonder includes over 100 works that the artist has created from a range of unusual materials like chocolate syrup, diamonds, trash and, most recently, grains of sand.

This exhibition has been co-organized by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis/New York/Paris/Lausanne, and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta and runs through October 14, 2018.

Works of Vik Muniz at Vertu Fine Art

Please contact us if you would like more information about the work of Vik Muniz or any of the other fine art work at VFA.

See More Vik Muniz Artwork for Sale

Eleanor Cummins The Devastating fire at Brazil’s National Museum illuminates a global problem. Popular Science. September 6, 2018.
Mark St. John Erickson Pictures: “Vik Muniz: Photography and the Rebirth of Wonder Daily Press. August 18, 2018.
Mariana Simoes Brazil’s National Museum Goes Up in Smoke, Leaving Brazilians Heartbroken and Angered Hyperallergic September 3, 2018.
Alex Katz Mae, 2005

Puppies, Poppies and Portraits: New Work at Vertu

Here’s a look at a few new acquisitions by some of our favorite artists:

Vik Muniz Portraits

Vik, 2003, is a portrait made up of hidden, random words, printed with found rubber stamps. Muniz says that his use of cryptic words comes from living under military rule in Brazil in the 1970s, where it was dangerous to speak or write openly, and where there was a “lingering climate of a semiotic black market where hidden messages seemed encoded in every phrase: everything meant something else.”

Vik, 2003, a photogravure on silk colle, is an homage to the Fingerprint portraits done by Chuck Close. Both works were part of last year’s exhibit at the Tampa Museum of Art, which showcased the works of many of the distinguished artists who have worked at the University of South Florida’s Graphicstudio.

Jeff Koon’s Puppy

Koon’s first Puppy sculpture was a 43-foot high topiary, constructed of a steel armature that supported about 60,000 flowers, including marigolds, petunias, impatiens and begonias. It was installed on the terrace of Spain’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in 1997.

Jeff Koons made a more collector-friendly version of Puppy in 1998. Puppy Vase is 17.5 inches high, and does not need a staff of gardeners for maintenance. It holds flowers that can be replaced at its owner’s convenience.

Donald Sultan Poppies

Continuing to work on his evolving theme of flowers and dots, Donald Sultan has created Poppies – sculptures that combine both motifs.

Red Poppies and Blue Poppies are painted aluminum mounted on polished aluminum bases. They each maintain the square format that Donald Sultan favors in much of his work.

The fun of collecting Sultan’s pieces, is watching the metamorphosis of his compositions, from dominoes with white dots, to buttons with white dots, to flowers with white dots. It’s not easy to understand the workings of Sultan’s mind, but it’s very interesting to see the results.

Alex Katz Mae

Alex Katz has long been a master at capturing the subtleties of color and light in his portraits. Mae is almost monochromatic, its muted tones creating a delicate portrait.

At 88, Katz still works out every morning and paints every day. At his studio in Maine this summer he worked on giant landscapes. Katz has always followed his instincts, and not the art movements that have come and gone during his long career. Last month, Katz told a PBS News Hour interviewer, “I think, in a sense, the world caught up with me.”

Free Ebook: How to Identify and Buy Fine Art Prints

Free Ebook: How to Identify and Buy Fine Art Prints

We believe that the more you know, the more you will appreciate fine art prints.

In our Ebook you’ll learn:

  • A short history of prints from the earliest woodcut to contemporary processes
  • Which artists most influenced the making of fine art prints
  • What questions to ask when buying prints
  • The fundamentals of print identification
  • Terms and techniques for identifying fine art prints
Learn More