The New York–based artist and poet Cecilia Vicuña has been selected for Tate Modern’s annual Turbine Hall Commission, where an artist presents a large-scale new work in the main entranceway to the London museum. The site-specific work will open in October and run through April 2023.
An acclaimed poet who has authored over 15 collections of poetry, Vicuña is known in the art world for a practice that spans painting, sculpture, and performance and deals with themes of the precarity of life, human fragility, ecology and environmentalism, and social justice, typically showing how all of them are intimately connected and interwoven with each other.
Her best-known sculptures are her “Quipu” series, large-scale hanging installations in brilliant colors that take their name from and are connected to the ancient Andean method of communication via knotting colored fabric. (The Tate recently acquired Vicuña’s 2017 Quipu Womb, which debuted at Documenta 14 in 2017.)
Recently, she has begun remaking a series of paintings that she made at the beginning of her career in Chile, before she was exiled from her home country in the early ’70s after the country’s violent military coup and subsequent dictatorship. Entrusting those works to friends who remained in the country, many of them were since lost.
Another major body of work by the artist, first begun in the mid-1960s, is her “Precarios,” small, intimate sculptures composed of various found objects—shells, feathers, stone, wood, cloth, trash. Initially, they were created along shorelines, so they would eventually be washed away by the rising tide.
Though her career spans over 50 years, Vicuña has only become a closely watched artist within the past decade, appearing in major exhibitions like Documenta 14, the traveling exhibition “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985 in 2017, the 2021 Gwangju Biennale, and the 2021 Shanghai Biennale.
This year she will be included in the main exhibition of the Venice Biennale, curated by Cecilia Alemani, and was recently named a recipient of the Biennale’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement award. She had a major traveling survey in 2017 that opened at the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans and will also have a solo show at the Guggenheim Museum in New York this year.
In a statement, Tate Modern director Frances Morris said, “Cecilia Vicuña has been an inspirational figure for decades, with the relevance and urgency of her work rightly underscored by her forthcoming Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement award. As a tireless champion of ecological awareness and social justice, as well as the creator of stunning and powerful works of art, I am delighted that Tate Modern will be working with Cecilia Vicuña on our next annual Hyundai Commission—I can’t wait for its unveiling this October.”