Juan Muñoz: Biography

Juan Muñoz (1953–2001) was born in Madrid. He spent a year studying architecture at the Polytechnic University in Madrid before deciding to flee fascist Spain for London in 1970. Muñoz went on to study at the Central School of Art and Design, London (1976–1977); Croydon College of Design and Technology, London, where he focused on printmaking (1979–1980); and Pratt Graphics Center, New York (1981). The periods Muñoz spent living in London and New York were particularly formative. While in London, his work was primarily performance-based, yet he progressively grew interested in a group of artists who were working to move beyond the canon of traditional sculpture, including Richard Deacon and Bill Woodrow, among others. Upon moving to New York in 1981, he was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Fellowship. He also began his work in sculpture and was strongly influenced by Philip Guston, Robert Morris, Barnett Newman, and Robert Smithson. Muñoz developed a friendship with the Spanish curator Carmen Giménez, who introduced Muñoz to the influential sculptor Richard Serra. Muñoz returned to Spain the following year and devoted a year to curating, during which time he organized with Giménez the exhibition Correspondences: 5 Architects, 5 Sculptors, which included work by Serra, at the Palacio de las Alhajas, Madrid.

Following his inclusion in notable group shows, including the 1986 Venice Biennale, in 1987 the artist had his first solo museum show, Juan Muñoz: Sculptures de 1985 à 1987, at the CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain, Bordeaux, and his first solo museum presentation in the United States took place at The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago in 1990. These early exhibitions established Muñoz as a key figure in bringing figurative language back to sculpture, alongside his friends and fellow artists Robert Gober and Thomas Schütte. Muñoz’s work has been the subject of numerous solo presentations throughout the United States and Europe, including at the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern (IVAM), Valencia, Spain (1992), and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (1994). Two significant solo exhibitions of his work took place in 1996: Juan Muñoz: monólogos y diálogos, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (traveled to Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, in 1997), and Juan Muñoz: A Place Called Abroad at Dia Center for the Arts, New York (traveled as Streetwise to SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1998). The artist’s work was the subject of a solo presentation at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark, in 2000. That same year he also was commissioned by the Tate Modern, London, to be the second artist—the first being Louise Bourgeois—to take over its Turbine Hall. Muñoz spent months developing a major installation, which opened to the public in 2001. 

Also in 2001 to 2002, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, presented a midcareer survey of Muñoz’s work that subsequently traveled to The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2002); Art Institute of Chicago (2002); and the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (2003). K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf, presented Juan Muñoz – Rooms of my mind in 2006 to 2007, and Musée de Grenoble, France, presented Juan Muñoz: Sculptures et dessins in 2007. A major museum retrospective devoted to Muñoz’s work opened at the Tate Modern, London, the following year. The show traveled through 2009 to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain; Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto; and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. Additional solo shows have been held at the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts (2010); Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan (2015); and the Art Institute of Chicago (2016). In 2018, Muñoz’s work was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Skulpturenhalle of the Thomas Schütte Stiftung in Neuss, Germany.

In 2017, PLANTA, the project space developed by Sorigué and Fundació Sorigué and located in Lleida, Spain, installed the artist’s major work Double Bind, which was created in 2001 for the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern, London. The installation is on long-term view. 

Juan Muñoz: Drawings 1982–2000 was on view at Centro Botín, Santander, Spain, in 2022. 

Muñoz’s work has been featured in a number of significant international group exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale (1986, 1993, and 1997) and Documenta (1992 and 2002). In 2000, he was awarded the Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas by the Spanish government.

During the artist’s lifetime and for many years following his death, Muñoz was represented by Marian Goodman, where his work was the subject of numerous solo exhibitions in the gallery’s New York and Paris locations. The first took place in 1991, early in the artist’s career, followed by solo shows in 1993, 1999, 2004, 2006, and 2014–2015.

The artist joined David Zwirner in 2020, and his first solo presentation with the gallery, Juan Muñoz: Seven Rooms, was on view in New York in 2022. 

The artist’s work is represented in prominent public collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Carré d’Art - Musée d’art contemporain de Nîmes, France; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark; M HKA, Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent; and the Tate, London.

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