One of the best-known Brazilian artists, seen in his home in Rio de Janeiro: a white container with nude walls, a decompression chamber for the artist, whose materic works set out to reveal a different reality in things with respect to what we’re used to seeing.

Impressionist technique? Creative process that looks back to a Renaissance pedagogical model, according to which learning happens by copying the work of an earlier master? There are lots of ways to describe the work of Vik Muniz, Brazil’s leading artist on the international market. “Take something you think you know well. Then try to take it apart: you will realize that you have been looking at it for a long time without seeing it correctly. It is a question of mental reconstruction, of optical illusion, of repairing reality”. Muniz is a draftsman/painter/photographer who uses diamonds, perforated paper, cotton, chocolate syrup, sugar, trash, dust, jam, sawdust, pins: this mixture of materials is painstakingly worked to create images that reproduce the masterpieces of the past, works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Monet, Matisse, Delacroix and Cranach, just to name a few. After this phase, the artist photographs the image and prints it as a limited edition of copies using the Cibachrome technique. The photographs are the final work. This clearly mannerist process achieves surprising accuracy. The photographs of the works made with chocolate syrup, in this sense, are particularly striking. Their original, poetic creativity generates nebulous imprints of a reality that is even more real than the one we truly know. Muniz puts it this way: “Chocolate is linked to many psychological states, desire, sex, dependency, luxury, romanticism, etc. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like chocolate”. Waste Land is Vik Muniz’s latest project. This short film, done with the director Lucy Walker, has won many prizes and was nominated for an Academy Award as best documentary. The project was developed at Jardim Gramacho, the world’s biggest outdoor dump on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, where 25,000 people live every day, picking through mountains of garbage. The artist stimulated this population to express itself through art, documenting the work and the evolution of a group of men and women who were able to create a work from the refuse they gathered. “These people have never had any relationship with art, have never looked through an art book or heard a lecture on Caravaggio, but they have a certain sense of aesthetics. Beauty is crucial for reproduction, and it can be found anywhere”, Muniz says. Born in São Paulo, the economic center of Brazil, Vik has decided to live in Rio de Janeiro, the “cidade maravilhosa”, in an apartment next to the beach of Ipanema. He took an active part in the design of his home. “I thought of it as a place to live. To spend most of my time, looking at as many images as possible, finding new ideas. I need to come home and free my mind, doing a sort of download. Here I look at the sea and the Cagarras islands, the best therapy in the world, my screensaver.” A fan of the Californian architecture of the 1960s (Neutra, Lautner), Vik is also very interested in design. So much so that he has decided to design a collection of furnishings called “mentirinha” (“fibs”): a dining table like the big wooden tables of Tuscany, a small low table, a box of ash wood full of sand to contain little things found on the beach. These objects are inserted in a space outfitted with bookshelves and storage units that contain his personal art collection, the sole furnishings on the white walls, intentionally without paintings or decorations.