Vik Muniz



Vik Muniz has stated that he wishes for viewers to see more than simply “a representation of something” in his work, by showing them “how it happens.” This makes for a particularly rewarding experience for children, as the magic of one thing transformed into something else entirely can truly change how they perceive the world around them. Muniz’s Pictures of Garbage photographs depict “catadores”—individuals who pick recyclable materials from the largest landfill in the world in Brazil. The photographs elevate the status of the figures by placing them in monumental portraits inspired by classical paintings, which are composed from the very materials the catadores collect. He shows the figures with great dignity and respect this way, commenting on the importance of their overlooked, yet critically important role in Brazil’s effort to cope with seemingly insurmountable issues of waste.

Muniz’s collaboration with NCM features a corresponding hands-on studio project that offers visitors unprecedented access to his creative process. Muniz invites visitors to compose their own “picture of garbage,” using broken plastic toys placed upon light boxes; in a technique that mirrors his own. By revealing the details of his practice he hopes to inspire a greater understanding and appreciation of the artistic process among NCM families. As he argues, “it is by empowering the viewer that art achieves its miraculous force.”


Over the last 15 years, Vik Muniz, who is represented by the gallery Sikkema Jenkins & Co., has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum, New York; Centre National pour la Photographie, Paris; and the Biennale di Venezia, as well as group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Gallery, London; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Muniz has received numerous awards including the National Artist Award granted by the Anderson Ranch Arts Center Aspen, CO, 2005; the Ayutamiento de Madrid: Premio Villa de Madrid de Fotografía “Kaulak”, 2005, Spain; and Líderes Latino Americanos para el Nuevo Milenio, CNN Time, NY, 1999. In 2005 Muniz published “Reflex – A Vik Muniz Primer” (2005: Aperture Foundation, New York)and his book Seeing is Believing (Arena Editions, 1998) was rated among the top ten photography books of the year by the New York Times Book Review and the Village Voice.