Leda and the Swan, after Leonardo da Vinci
Vik Muniz (American, born Brazil, 1961), Leda and the Swan,
after Leonardo da Vinci from the Pictures of Junk series, 2009.
The photography department recently acquired Vik Muniz’s Leda and the Swan, after Leonardo da Vinci (2009) in January 2011 during the High's annual Collectors' Evening event. Born in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1961, Muniz works with unconventional materials—including sugar, tomato sauce, chocolate syrup, dust and garbage—to craft narrative subjects before recording them with his camera. To create Leda and the Swan, after Leonardo da Vinci, part of the artist’s Pictures of Junk series, Muniz placed his camera on a platform elevated by a crane high above a warehouse floor. Using the open space as a canvas, he employed impoverished art students from the outskirts of São Paulo to help him collect detritus from the city’s dumps and arrange it into the shape of a recognizable painting by Leonardo da Vinci.
Seen from more than 40 feet above the floor, objects such as discarded hub caps, pipes, appliances and tires become the building blocks for an imaginative but ephemeral recreation of the celebrated Renaissance painting Leda and the Swan. Measuring approximately 7½ feet high, the photograph Muniz made of the sculptural arrangement remains the only permanent record of this amazing deed. Muniz’s work is included in the collections of leading national and international museums and was the subject of the award-winning documentary film Wasteland (2010). This is the second photograph from the artist’s Pictures of Junk series to enter the High’s collection.