°1948, Santiago (CL) - lives and works in New York (US) and Santiago (CL)
Cecilia Vicuña has dedicated her life to reclaiming the ancient indigenous knowledge of her homeland and positioning it in dialogue with the contemporary world. In her multifaceted practice, she deploys this universal wisdom like a talisman against unbridled capitalism and environmental destruction. Through poetry, painting, installations and ritualistic performances, she aims to awaken a spirit of collective activism in her audiences and to disrupt the negative forces that are destroying both the planet and humanity.
Born and raised in Santiago, the artist was forced into exile during the military coup against President Salvador Allende in the 1970s. This experience brought the precarious nature of human existence into ever sharper focus. Vicuña is particularly known for two ongoing bodies of work that she has been making since the 1960s: precarios and quipus. Both have their origins in ancient Andean traditions. The former are diminutive spatial poems crafted from feathers, stone, plastic, wood, wire, shells, cloth, and other artificial detritus, which are often looped together into organic constellations. The quipus are based on an ancient Andean method of communication and record-keeping involving the knotting of coloured strings. Vicuña uses unspun wool to make her own transitory and site-specific quipu installations.
(courtesy of Xavier Hufkens)
Cecilia Vicuna - Leoparda de Ojitos (Leopard of Little Eyes), 1976
Cecilia Vicuña - Black Panther and Me (ii),1978
Cecilia Vicuna - Violeta Parra, 973
Cecilia Vicuna - El Paro (The Strike), 2018
Cecilia Vicuña - Autobiograía, 1971
Cecilia Vicuna - Bendigame Mamita, 2017
She also creates collective, ritual-like performances in vulnerable or charged sites, with the aim of restoring the connection between people and the earth. The loss of natural elements and resources, especially water, is a significant theme in her oeuvre. Vicuña is also the acclaimed author of almost thirty volumes of art and poetry and a skilled filmmaker.
Cecilia Vicuña received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale, Italy in 2022. Museum exhibitions include Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de Santiago; The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Art in General, NYC; The Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; The Berkeley Art Museum; The Whitney Museum of American Art; and MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Cecilia Vicuña is represented by the following galleries;
click through to discover more of her work.
Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York
Galeria Patricia Ready, Santiago
You can also discover more of Cecilia Vicuña’s work on her own website.