Tate and Unilever today announced that the Spanish artist Juan Muñoz is to undertake the second in The Unilever Series of commissions for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. The first commission was fulfilled by Louise Bourgeois and was unveiled when Tate Modern opened on 12 May 2000. It is estimated that over 150,000 people have climbed her three towers, I do, I undo and I redo, situated in the east end of the Turbine Hall. Muñoz will create a new installation, for the 155 metres long x 35 metres high (500 x 115 feet) space, which will open in June 2001.
Juan Muñoz is renowned for sculptural works in which he situates the human figure within elaborate or complex architectural settings. These are created using elements such as patterned floors, staircases and balconies. Then, by a highly considered placement of the figures, Muñoz entices the viewer into an engagement with the implied dramas unravelling within. The architectural features also serve as metaphors, particularly the balcony which, in Muñoz’s art, operates as a form of threshold, between performer and spectator, past and future, and subject and object.
Muñoz’s cast of characters includes dwarfs, ventriloquist’s dummies, ballerinas and circus performers, and makes reference to earlier art, such as the paintings of Velasquez and classical sculpture, as well as to the films of Luis Buñuel. Muñoz regards himself as a storyteller, and indeed the uncanny quality of the figures, their enigmatic muteness, invites the viewer to construct their own narrative or reading of the work. Muñoz’s sculptures are made with virtuoso craftsmanship, often in traditional materials, such as bronze, yet they undeniably belong to the contemporary moment.
For The Unilever Series, Muñoz is devising an installation specifically for the Tate Modern Turbine Hall, playfully utilising the colossal dimensions of the space and exploring the shift in scale between the building and the audience. Unilever’s support, totalling £1.25 million, will allow Tate Modern to commission a new large-scale work for the Turbine Hall each year until 2004. Unilever Chairman, Niall FitzGerald, comments
The Unilever Series provides an opportunity for creativity on a grand scale and we are delighted that Juan Muñoz is taking up the challenge. We are intrigued to see how he will use the Turbine Hall to continue his exploration of the relationship between people and their surroundings. I am sure that the result will be both stimulating and involving.
Juan Muñoz was born in 1953 in Madrid, where he continues to live and work. He studied at Central School of Art in London and the Pratt Centre in New York. He is one of a generation of European artists to have emerged over the last twenty years whose work has significantly extended the language of sculpture. His work has been included in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including A Place Called Abroad, Dia Centre for the Arts, New York (1996), Venice Biennale (1997), Doubletake, Hayward Gallery, London (1993), Documenta 9, Kassel (1992) and Possible Worlds, ICA, London (1990). A major touring retrospective of his work will open in Washington DC in October 2001.