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Vik Muniz (Brazil)

Pictures of Garbage

To create the Pictures of Garbage series, Vik Muniz worked with the catadores, or pickers, from the world’s largest landfill: Jardim Gramacho in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Working with his collaborators and using garbage collected from the dump, Muniz constructed portraits of the catadores, many with art historical references.

The catadores work in a co-operative founded and led by Sebastião Carlos Dos Santos, president of the Association of Pickers of Jardim Gramacho (ACAMJG). The money created by selling artwork from the Pictures of Garbage series was given back to the catadores and the ACAMJG in order to aid the catadores in their mission to improve life in their community.

Steven Evans, FotoFest Executive Director and 2016 Biennial Co-curator


Born in 1961 in São Paulo, Brazil, Vik Muniz grew up in a poor working-class environment. He showed an early aptitude for drawing, and his school lecture notes were most often composed of sketches of the presented material. Following his injury in a shooting accident, he received a legal settlement that afforded him the chance to study art in the United States.

Over the past two decades, Muniz’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide. It is currently included in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Recently, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority commissioned Muniz to contribute artwork for the new 72nd Street and Second Avenue subway station, which will open in 2016. In the spring of 2016, the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, premieres a major retrospective of the artist’s work.

In addition to his art activities, Muniz is involved in educational and social projects in Brazil and the United States. The documentary Waste Land (2010), directed by Lucy Walker, chronicles the creation of Muniz’s Pictures of Garbage series; it was nominated for an Academy Award and won the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Best Film. In 2011 UNESCO nominated him Goodwill Ambassador,and in January 2013 he received a Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. In 2014 Muniz finished building Escola Vidigal, a school of art and technology for low income children from the Vidigal community in Rio de Janeiro. He has also been a guest speaker at major universities and museums;a TED Conference; and the World Economic Forum. Muniz lives and works in New York and Rio de Janeiro.

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