Marta Minujin makes plush sculptures and immersive environments, strung with glowing neon lights. She created ‘Happenings’ in neon and Day-Glo colors that riffed between Pop and interactive art. Her engagement in public performances with active participants allowed for physical contact with her viewers.
When Minujin was a sixteen year old teenager in Buenos Aires, she secretly married Juan Carlos Gomez Sabatini an economist; they are still together today. She falsified records to get a marriage license in order to travel internationally on her own. A scholarship from the National Arts Foundation enabled her to travel to Paris and join its burgeoning art scene. She was one of the young artists from Angentina featured in a 1960 exhibition by a Paris Biennale judge.
In the early 1960s, she worked with discarded hospital mattresses, transforming them into bulging forms that referenced the human body, rest, and sex. They became central elements of installations such as her 1963 “La chamber d’amour (The Love Room)” and her 1964 “Revuelquese y Viva!” In the 1964 piece she encouraged viewers to roll around in a sea of cushions.
From the success of her one room environments, she made an 11 room installation in 1965. She collaborated with fellow artist Ruben Santantonin on “La Menesunda (Mayhem),” which was shown in Buenos Aires the same year as Yayoi Kusama’s first “Infinity Room.” Again Minujin wanted viewers to become participants in this immersive work and not just spectators.
Minujin’s installation led viewers into a bubblegum pink room where actresses applied makeup to visitors; into a bedroom where a couple lounges in bed; into a white space resembling the inside of a refrigerator, etc. This work also used a closed-circuit camera so that viewers could look at a television screen broadcasting their own image. This piece was considered risqué in Catholic Argentina as it forced people to think about the limitations placed on women.
The following year 1966, Minujin won a Guggenheim fellowship for “La Menesunda,” and she relocated to New York City. There she became friends with artist Andy Warhol. Together with him, she made her performance piece, “Paying off the Argentine Foreign Debt with Corn, the Latin American Gold.”
This work will be restaged in 2019 and will be able to be seen through Instagram. The artist is happy about Instagram since it allows people to experience artwork without crowds or noise.
Minujin’s work has also addressed political issues of totalitarian rule and oppression. However, the political and social nature of her work is often encased in fun. In 1979, she made a sculpture of a reclining Statue of Liberty covered in hamburgers. In 1983, she created “The Parthenon of Books,” a replica of the Parthenon using 100,000 books banned by the former Argentine dictator after his downfall. In 2017, she participated in documenta 14 with an iteration of this work.
Minujin’s art pieces have been displayed in the Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art, the National Fine Arts Museum, and many other international galleries and art shows.