Artist Vik Muniz draws standing-room-only crowd to Mint Museum Uptown

“Vote for Art” winner discusses his artistic process

Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, winner of the Mint’s recent “Vote for Art” competition, drew a record crowd of 450 people to the Mattye and Marc Silverman Grand Room on the fifth floor of Mint Museum Uptown on Tuesday January 8 as he shared his life story and philosophy on art.
Despite his international success, Muniz said he has never created his art for the walls of a museum, but for individuals from all walks of life. “I’m very big with museum security guards,” he told the audience – because they have a better perspective than art critics on whether people truly like his work.
Muniz, a sculptor-turned-photographer, has photographed images created from materials including wire, sugar, chocolate, children’s toys, pigments, layers of paper, and even diamonds and caviar – all of which he shared with Tuesday’s audience. But it is his decision to use objects salvaged from the world’s largest landfill, Jardim Gramacho, located just outside Rio de Janeiro (and which recently closed) to re-create classic works of art that have earned him the most notice. Those images became the subject of the Mint’s Vik Muniz: Garbage Matters exhibition, on view through April 28 at Mint Museum Uptown. Muniz’s process was documented in the film Waste Land, which will screen at the Mint at 7 p.m. on January 29.
Muniz’s The Birth of Venus II (Pictures of Junk), a re-creation of Botticelli’s famous work, was the top vote-getter in the Mint’s “Vote for Art” competition last fall, and is being added to the Mint’s permanent collection.
“Art is not something that you make,” Muniz told the crowd. “It is something that flows through you, as life.”
Muniz shared more of his philosophies – and his impressions of Charlotte – in an interview after the lecture. Coming from a city of more than 30 million, he said, Charlotte feels small – but has lots to offer. “Everything is more condensed, the community is more tight, people know each other, but they also have lots of opportunities for culture,” he said.
He was pleased that the Charlotte audience provided such a strong turnout for his talk, he added, because he enjoys explaining his process. “My main mission is to demystify what I do, and what art does, too,” he said.
He encouraged Charlotteans to visit and support the Mint and other art museums. “To feel how an image changes as you approach it – that is something that you can only experience when you come to a museum,” he said. “When you share physical space with artworks, you have the chance to interact and engage with them – there is an interactive aspect to great art.”

(Above photo of Vik Muniz at Mint Museum Uptown on January 8 by Daniel Coston)