Over the past sixty years, the pioneering Argentinian artist Marta Minujín (b. 1943, Buenos Aires, Argentina) has developed happenings, performances, installations, and video works that have greatly influenced generations of contemporary artists in Latin America and beyond.
Marta Minujín, The Neon Tunnel, from La Menesunda, 1965 (detail). Installation view: “La Menesunda según Marta Minujín” [La Menesunda according to Marta Minujín], Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires, 2015. Courtesy Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires
Over the past sixty years, the epoch-defining Argentinian artist Marta Minujín (b. 1943, Buenos Aires, Argentina) has developed happenings, performances, installations, and video works that have greatly influenced generations of contemporary artists in Latin America and beyond. Minujín combines elements of experimental theater, film and television, advertising, and sculpture to create total environments that place viewers at the center of social situations and confront them with the seductiveness of media images and celebrity culture. Emerging in the 1960s as one of the strongest voices in Argentinian art, Minujín has often refused to make lasting objects, instead developing her work in opposition to institutional structures. Her simultaneously monumental and fragile works challenge conventions of art while testifying to her unyielding engagement with both radical artistic forms and the artifices of popular culture. Minujín’s capacity to inspire awe and surprise has solidified her reputation as a pioneer of Latin American conceptual art.
In 1965, at the Center of Visual Arts of the Instituto Torcuato di Tella in Buenos Aires, Minujín and Rubén Santantonín devised the now-legendary environment La Menesunda. The work led visitors on a circuitous journey through eleven distinct spaces, including a tunnel of luminous neon signs, a bedroom complete with a married couple, a hallway lined with illuminated TVs, and a salon with makeup artists and masseuses offering their services. This intricate, interactive labyrinth sought to provoke visitors and spur them into action, and to offer new modes of encounter with consumer culture, mass media, and urban life. In 2015, the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires presented a reconstruction of La Menesunda, and in June 2019, the New Museum presents the second recreation of this installation, its first-ever presentation in the US. While La Menesunda was created as a direct response to street life in Buenos Aires—the title is slang for a confusing situation—the work, alongside that of Niki de Saint Phalle, Christo, Claes Oldenburg, and others, counts among the earliest large-scale environments made by artists, demonstrating how Minujín anticipated the contemporary obsession with participatory spaces, the lure of new pop-up museums, and the quest for an intensity of experience that defines social media today.
The exhibition is curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Edlis Neeson Artistic Director, and Helga Christoffersen, Associate Curator.
La Menesunda is co-produced by the New Museum and the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires.
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Marta Minujín was born in 1943 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she lives and works. She studied at the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes Manuel Belgrano and the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes Prilidiano Pueyrredón Buenos Aires. In 1961, she received a scholarship to study in Paris, where she carried out her first performance, La destrucción (The Destruction), in 1963. Returning to Buenos Aires in 1964, she was awarded the Premio Nacional Instituto Torcuato Di Tella for the work ¡Revuélquese y viva! (Wallow around and live!, 1964), her first interactive installation. Minujín received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1966. During the 1970s, she lived between the United States and Argentina, exhibiting her work in major institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1973), and Centro de Arte y Comunicación, Buenos Aires (1975, 1976). A retrospective of Minujín’s work was presented at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires in 2010, and her work has been included in documenta 14, Kassel (2017), and in exhibitions at Tate Modern, London (2015); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2015); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2001); and elsewhere.