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Reina Sofia Museum Presents a Major Solo Retrospective of Juan Muñoz's Work


Juan Muñoz, Figures seated with five drums, 1999. Polyester resin. Dimensions variable. Private collection.

MADRID.- Juan Muñoz (1953 – 2001) is widely regarded as of one of the foremost contemporary sculpture and installation artists. Revealing his innovative and wide ranging artistic practice, Reina Sofía Museum presents a major solo retrospective of Muñoz’s work.

The exhibition features more than 100 works, including several previously unseen pieces alongside Muñoz’s signature sculptures and installations, exquisite series of drawings, and collaborative sound and performance pieces. In addition to the main exhibition on Level 3 of the Sabatini building, a group of sculptures and drawings have been placed throughout the museum.Together they provide a rich and broad experience of Muñoz’s oeuvre.

Muñoz came to international prominence in the mid-1980s with works that placed the human figure in architectural environments. His reputation was built on his ability to create tension between the illusory and real, the contrasting acts of looking and receiving, and the poignant isolation of the individual among a group or crowd. Muñoz’s installations are both dramatic and theatrical, using scale and perspective to inflect the viewer’s encounter with the work.

Muñoz regarded himself as a story-teller, and the uncanny quality of the figures and their enigmatic muteness invite the viewer to construct their own narrative or reading of the work. In the 1990s, Muñoz began to create his well-known Conversation Pieces, clusters of free-standing figures in carefully arranged groups or ensembles. Made in resin or cast in bronze, the figures are frozen in moments of inner contemplation or exchange, caught with their mouths open or in mid-gesture, adding an eerie and literal stillness to the silence of their conversations.

The exhibition features Muñoz’s Raincoat Drawings, made with chalk and ink on blackened gabardine-raincoat fabric, which portray sparsely furnished rooms and often include glimpses of doorways leading to similarly desolate spaces. Like some of the filmmakers he admired, Muñoz was intrigued by the potential embedded in the apparent normalcy of these spaces, which give a sense that something has happened or is about to happen.

Muñoz’s literary work includes essays and writings on artists and architecture. He also produced a number of sound-based works and radio plays in collaboration with composer Gavin Bryars, novelist and art historian John Berger and musician Alberto Iglesias. Originally performed live and broadcast on radio stations around the world, several of these sound-based works are included in the exhibition.

Juan Muñoz is curated by Sheena Wagstaff, Chief Curator, Tate Modern, assisted by Kerryn Greenberg, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern and Lynne Cooke from the Museo Reina Sofia.