Vik Muniz, Metachrome (Interior with Egyptian Curtain, after Matisse).JPG

METACHROME (Interior with Egyptian Curtain, after Matisse)

The first piece that grabbed my attention at Art Basel was Vik Muniz’s version of Matisse’s Interior with Egyptian Curtain.  “Hey that’s a Matisse” I proclaimed.  The gallery attendant nodded and readily acknowledged the fact.  The title, Metachrome (Interior with Egyptian Curtain, after Matisse) pays homage to the original. 

Muniz is best known from the documentary film Wasteland where he and a band of catadores upcycle waste from the world’s largest dump in Rio de Janeiro and sell the pieces for large sums at an auction house in London.  He holds the perspective that art needs to be for the common man not just the elite.  He also doesn’t believe in originals but rather in individuality.  Perhaps that is true.  I’ve heard before that artists are the greatest thieves.

For this piece Muniz replicated the Matisse using crushed pastels on a smallish piece of paper. He then photographed his replica and is selling the photograph as a limited edition print (1 of 6).  

I once knew some 9th and 10th graders who replicated this exact painting on a wall at their inner city Houston high school.  I’m not sure the Muniz piece merits its hefty price tag, nor can I afford it.  If I desired to own a replica I’d probably just hire a set of 9th & 10th graders to do their version.  But that seems to be the point of Mr. Muniz’s work. 

He aspires to prove that art can be created anywhere and by anyone.  He wants to connect the working man and the elitist by recreating well known images using materials commonly available.  His dialogue with art revolves around poverty and the juxtaposition of the esoteric with the banal.  As he has evolved as an artist he has sought to use these very materials to improve the lives of those living in poverty.

Vik, thanks for igniting a movement and seeking to use your work as a vehicle for change.