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b. 1943, Buenos Aires
Marta Minujín was born in 1943 in Buenos Aires. She studied fine art at the Escuela de Bellas Artes Manuel Belgrano (1953–59) and art education at the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes (1960–61), both in Buenos Aries. In 1961 she went to Paris as a part of a delegation of Argentine participants in that year’s Paris Biennial. She returned to Paris the following year after receiving a fellowship to study painting informally in France (1962–63). Subsequently, she has split her time between New York and Buenos Aires, where she currently resides.
As a pioneer of happenings, performance art, soft sculpture, and video, Minujín pursues a varied and irreverent practice that demonstrates a profound distrust of the collectible art object. She often uses ephemeral materials such as cardboard, fabric, and food in work that is both monumental and fragile. Many of the artist’s actions have employed surprise, provocation, and even violence; some early works saw her destroy all her existing sculptures (The Destruction [La Destruccíon, 1963]), stage temporary interventions with living animals (The Bump [El Batacazo, 1964]), and subject unwitting viewers to extreme conditions (La Menesunda, 1965). In Paris she began a series of soft sculptures made from modified mattresses stitched together and painted in bold colors. As its title suggests, mattresses also feature in Minujín’s Colchones series (1963– ).
Unlike the work of other Fluxus artists, often characterized by a dematerialized art practice applied to a generalized critique of capitalism, Minujín’s is indebted to a specific lineage of Argentinean protest against dictatorship. In addition, she was influenced by the 1960s intellectual milieu surrounding the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella, Buenos Aires, where Argentine essayist Oscar Masotta led daily discussions on topics ranging from semiotics to the influential post-Freudian psychoanalytic theories of Jacques Lacan. Notable from the period is Simultaneity and Simultaneity (Simultaneidad en Simultaneidad, 1966), Minujín’s contribution to the Three Country Happening (1996), a collaboration between the artist in Buenos Aires, Allan Kaprow in New York, and Wolf Vostell in Berlin that featured simultaneous events in all three cities. Building on earlier sculptures such as Obelisk in Sweet Bread (Obelisco de pan duce, 1979) that model national monuments in ephemeral materials, Minujín’s later projects have included colossal public sculptures such as Babel Tower (Torre de Babel, 2011), Agora of Peace (Agora de la Paz, 2013), and Hopscotch Art (Rayuelarte, 2014).
Minujín has had solo exhibitions at Bianchini Gallery, New York (1966); Howard Wise Gallery, New York (1967); Centro de Arte y Comunicación, Buenos Aires (1975); Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires (1999); The Americas Society, New York (2010); Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville (2010); and Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (2011). Select group exhibitions include the Paris Biennial (1961); Salon de la Jeune Sculpture, Musée Rodin, Paris (1962); Du Labyrinthe, Chambre d’amour, Tokyo (1963–64); La boîte et son contenu, Galerie Legendre, Paris (1964); Art of Latin America Since Independence, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (1966); Imán: Nueva York, Fundación Proa, Buenos Aires (2010); and the So Paulo Biennial (2010). Her honors include the Premio Nacional Instituto Torcuato Di Tella Award (1964) and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (1966).