Vik Muniz was born into a working-class family in São Paulo in 1961. As a young man he was shot in the leg while trying to break up a fight and with the compensation he received for his injuries he funded a trip to New York. There he began his artistic career as a sculptor, but gradually became more interested in the photographic reproductions of his work, eventually turning his attention exclusively to photography.
Muniz employs a multiplicity of unlikely materials in his practice. Often working in series, he has used dust, diamonds, sugar, string, chocolate syrup and garbage to create bold, witty and deceptive images, which are often drawn from the pages of art history and photojournalism.
In 2001 Muniz represented Brazil at the 49th Venice Biennale. Since then he has had solo shows at prestigious venues all over the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, State Art Gallery of São Paulo, MoMA PS1 in New York, Frick Art & Historical Center in Pittsburgh, Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal, National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Jeonbuk Museum of Art in Seoul, MACRO in Rome, Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona and the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead.
He is the co-founder and associate editor of Blindspot Magazine and his book Seeing is Believing was rated among the top ten photography books of 1998 by the New York Times Book Review and the Village Voice.
Muniz believes in using art as a force for social change. In 2010 he featured in the documentary film Waste Land, which follows the artist as he journeys from his home in Brooklyn to Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest landfill site on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he collaborated with an eclectic band of waste pickers as they created photographic images of themselves out of rubbish. The film reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives and it won the Audience Award for Best World Cinema Documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. The following year it was nominated for the Best Documentary Feature at the 83rd Academy Awards.
In 2011 Muniz was nominated a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and received a Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum in 2013. He is a member of the Network of Global Agenda Councils and has collaborated with non-governmental and non-profit agencies on numerous youth education programmes in Brazil.
The Humanitas Visiting Professorship in Contemporary Art has been developed in close collaboration with and made possible by the generous support of Ivorypress.