VIK MUNIZ: A BRIEF HISTORY OF ART 1 February – 11 March 2022 Ben Brown Fine Arts London, 12 Brook’s Mews, London W1K 4DG and 80 Grosvenor Street, London W1K 3JX
Vik Muniz: A Brief History of Art, an extensive survey of photographic work by the prolific New York- and Brazil-based conceptual artist Vik Muniz, coinciding with his 60th birthday.
Vik Muniz: A Brief History of Art brings together a broad selection of the artist’s most iconic and venerated works from the last two decades. The exhibition will be spread over two venues: Ben Brown Fine Arts’ flagship London gallery and around the corner at the gallery’s new 130 square metre pop-up space in Mayfair, on Grosvenor Street.
I always try to make things that have a relationship between the parts and the whole. The idea of a mosaic is quite interesting, because you have both image and material trying to fight one another. It is not something fluid like pencil and ink – they are pieces of things. That creates a tension between material and subject.
Inspired by artists across centuries and artistic movements, from Sandro Botticelli and Francisco Goya to Van Gogh and Gerhard Richter, the exhibition features re-imaginings of famous masterpieces from the Early Renaissance through to the 21st century. Muniz uses a wide range of unconventional materials, including dust, sugar, chocolate, diamonds, caviar, toys, junk, scrap metal, dry pigment, vintage postcards and magazine shreds to recreate and reference iconic imagery.
These material constructions are photographed, then either magnified or shrunken in scale, with the final work of art becoming a documentation of his conceptual and artistic processes. Reconstructing images that tap into the viewer’s subconscious visual repository, these works ask us to reconsider the familiar imagery in its altered form.
At the same time, by embedding messages and symbols, the works uncover a layering of meaning that looks through pure representation. When the viewer looks, they know they have seen this before, but upon further inspection know it is far removed from the original object.
Through examination, more details are revealed, creating a narrative – in doing so, Muniz depicts what a story might look like within an image, capturing the subjectivity of history. The ordinary materials he uses expose a political underbelly, and the final works become an examination of how we define our modern society.