Vik Muniz - Under the Influence New York Friday, September 23, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    My first idea for this project was to draw Hollywood stars with diamonds. I wanted to test the degree of interference between the overkill glamour of the stars themselves and that of shiny rocks. I thought it might become intoxicating and conceptually claustrophobic. I drew Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich, and others, all in the sultry, soft, angled front-light illumination of movie glamour, and shot the results with unforgiving hard light, to turn the rocks into prisms. –Vik Muniz

    (Vik Muniz quoted in Reflex: A Vik Muniz Primer, New York, 2005, p. 97)

    Vik Muniz’s Diamond Divas was initially a series conceived to represent five of Hollywood’s most glamorous screen legends: Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich, Princess Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe. The series was commissioned by a collector of Muniz’s work, who was active in the diamond trade and supplied the artist with a collection of diamonds with which to work. The resulting 2004 body of work achieved such unprecedented success that the Brazilian artist created Pictures of Diamonds in 2005, which went on to include Ava Gardner, Sophia Loren, Rita Hayworth, Louise Brooks, Catherine Denueve, and finally, as seen in the present lot, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. He fashions each portrait of the series from more than 3,000 loose diamonds, the optimal precious stone out of which to render such glamorous subjects. The dazzling portrait of Jackie shines with the vitality of the First Lady herself.

    The process—drafting a drawing of the subject, masking it with an unorthodox medium, and finally photographing it—has been central to Muniz’s work ever since his first series, 1994’s Pictures of Wire. In that series and the series’ the followed, Pictures of Thread, Pictures of Chocolate, Pictures of Sugar, and Pictures of Pigment, just to name a few, Muniz utilizes a three-dimensional material to challenge the boundaries of dimensionality by flattening the objects into two-dimensional photographic portraits. The ephemeral nature of these materials is then locked into the portrait and salvaged from its own impending disintegration. Photography, as a medium, suspends its subject in a liminal realm; Muniz’s materials are frozen in an image that will never unravel, rot or fade.

    He populates his photographs with the visual equivalent of a play on words. At first, each work seems to offer an iconic image, such as da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Jacques-Louis David’s Death of Marat, or Hans Namuth’s photograph of Jackson Pollock creating his famed drip painting. But upon close inspection, the image is fashioned from surprising mediums—the lady on the balcony appears in peanut butter, Marat’s lifeless body is formed from garbage, and the working Pollock is rendered from Bosco syrup. One experiences this visual splendor both from a distance, as one recognizes the iconic image, but also upon perusal, as one becomes lost in the fluidity and brilliance of the material as it forms the familiar shapes of the subject.

    Unlike the perishable material chosen for these earlier series, Pictures of Diamonds fashions something ephemeral out of an immortal medium; the beauty of the famed icon is forever sealed in the arrangement of diamonds, an ever lustrous, radiant and indestructible jewel. Within the series, Jackie is the only subject to avert her eyes from the gaze of the viewer. This modesty suggests a certain selflessness; in spite of a life marred with tragedy, she manages to gaze forward into the brilliance of the future. The diamonds emerge from the dark background with a magnificent effect, showcasing the paragon of elegance with the paragon of the elemental world. Just as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was flawless in her poise, grace, and inspiring spirit, Jackie proves to be flawless in the suitability of its medium for its subject.


Jackie (Pictures of Diamonds)

40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm)
Signed and dated "Vik Muniz 2005" on a label affixed to the reverse of the backing board. This work is from an edition of 10 plus four artist's proofs.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $158,500

Under the Influence

23 September 2011
New York