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Cecilia Vicuña

Cecilia Vicuña (born 1948, Santiago, Chile) is a poet, artist and filmmaker who has moved between her native Chile and New York City for almost four decades. The author of more than 22 books of poetry, Vicuña exhibits and performs internationally.

Vicuña's multi-dimensional works begin as a poem, an image or a line that evolves into a film, a song, a sculpture or a collective performance. In 1966, she began creating her sculptural interventions – her precarios – combining ritual with the creation of assemblages using ephemeral, found materials. She is also renowned for the monumental installations she creates from raw wool – her quipus.

Vicuña first exhibited with England & Co in 2012, participating with the gallery in the Pinta Latin American Art Fairs in London and New York, and at Photo London. Her solo exhibition, Cecilia Vicuña, at England & Co (2013) was accompanied by a publication with an essay by Dawn Ades. That exhibition primarily focused on the artist's time in London in the 1970s, and included significant early paintings: Vicuña's painting of Violetta Parra (1973) was subsequently acquired from England & Co by Tate in 2017. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York acquired her portrait of Karl Marx (1973) from England & Co in 2018.

The exhibition also included the surviving works from the series Precarios: A Journal of Objects for the Chilean Resistance (1972-74) made in response to General Pinochet's military coup against President Salvador Allende. These works were acquired in 2014 from England & Co by Tate, London.

Vicuña's visual work has been exhibited at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de Santiago; the Institute of Contemporary Arts and the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London; Brooklyn Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art and MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York; and documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel.

Read Thread – The Story of the Red Thread was published to coincide with Vicuña's installation at documenta 14 in Athens in April 2017. (See News.)

In 2014, a major exhibition, Artists for Democracy: El archivo de Cecilia Vicuña, was held at the Museu Nacional de Bellas Artes; Museu de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago, Chile. In 2017, the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, originated a traveling exhibition entitled Cecilia Vicuña: About to Happen. In 2018, the exhibition, Cecilia Vicuña: Disappeared Quipu, opened at the Brooklyn Museum, NY. Vicuña is also represented in Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985, an exhibition that commenced at the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center, Los Angeles, and toured to Brooklyn Museum, New York, and to the Pinacoteca de São Paulo. The touring retrospective exhibition, Seehearing the Enlightened Failure, Cecilia Vicuña, was at Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam (now renamed Kunstinstituut Melly) Netherlands in 2019; Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC). Mexico City, Mexico in 2020; and is currently at CA2M – Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (Madrid). There is an accompanying publication edited by Miguel López.

Selected archive images appear on these pages.

Works acquired from England & Co (Violeta Parra and Precarios) were recently shown at Tate Modern and are reproduced in the essay Art and Activism for Chile.

Constructions & mixed media   Paintings   Performance   Photography   

Drawings & works on paper

Palabrarma - Details

Palabrarma 1974
21.5 x 28 cm
Collage on red paper

eman si pasion / parti si passion - Details

eman si pasion / parti si passion 1974
21.5 x 28 cm
Collage on blue paper

arbol de manos - Details

arbol de manos 1974
30.5 x 23 cm
Collage on paper

sol y dar y dad - Details

sol y dar y dad 1974
21.5 x 28 cm
Collage on blue paper

Palabrarma - Details

Palabrarma 1975
29.7 x 42 cm
Felt tip pens on paper

ver dad - Details

ver dad 1974
25 x 35 cm
Collage on cream paper

Ser de Ojos - Details

Ser de Ojos 1977
10 x 13.75 inches
Ink drawing on paper

Hombre Que Rie - Details

Hombre Que Rie 1978
10 x 13.75 inches
Ink drawing on paper
Private collection

Corazón Tinta - Details

Corazón Tinta 1978
10 x 13.75 inches
Ink drawing on paper

Ladilla (Crab) - Details

Ladilla (Crab) 1979
12 x 9 inches
Ink drawing on paper

Unir Todo el Pueblo Contra la Dictadura - Details

Unir Todo el Pueblo Contra la Dictadura 1975
41 x 34.8 cm
Ink on paper

Palabrarma - Details

Palabrarma 1975
21.5 x 28 cm
Pencil on paper

Resistir - Details

Resistir 1975
Each 14.8 x 20.7 cm
Felt tip pens on 3 paper sheets