Renowned artist Vik Muniz is involved in educational and social projects in Brazil and the United States. Much of his art involves collaboration with — and financial benefit to — his subjects, who are often poor and disenfranchised.
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collaborators and using garbage collected from the dump, Muniz constructed portraits of the catadores, many with art historical references.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. His collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives. The project has helped lift some of the social stigma surrounding their profession, and the Brazilian government is now using the film to promote recycling nationwide.
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.
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Marat (Sebastião) 2008
Created by Vik Muniz, Vidigal School’s main objective is to provide opportunities for low income children of the Vidigal community in Rio de Janeiro who are of reading age, to learn arts and technology through play. The project’s pedagogical method was developed in partnership between the artist and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
“Brazilian Artist Vik Muniz Builds a School in Rio” – Wall Street Journal
“Vik Muniz to Open Innovative School in Rio de Janeiro” – Medium
“Vik Muniz Builds Favela Art School for Brazilian Children” – Artnet News
Vik Muniz, born in 1961 in Sao Paulo, 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 in series, Muniz incorporates the use of quotidian objects such as diamonds, sugar, thread, chocolate syrup and garbage in his practice to create bold, ironic and often deceiving imagery, gleaned from the pages of pop culture and art history. His work has had commercial success and critical acclaim, and has been exhibited worldwide. His work in the collection of international museums, among them, MoMA, Art Institute of Chicago, International Center for Photography, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Tate Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Whitney Museum of American Art, SF MoMA, Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. Muniz lives and works in New York and Rio de Janeiro.