The Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña has been named the winner of this year’s Premio Velázquez de Artes Plásticas, a prestigious $110,700 prize presented by the Spanish Ministry of Culture. The Santiago-born, New York–based artist, whose practice spans poetry, painting, performance, activism, and sculpture, was also nominated for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s Hugo Boss Prize this week.
Vicuña’s installations of intricately knotted fiber-based sculptureswhich often refer to quipus, a pre-Columbian Andean method of accounting and recordinghave recently been featured in Documenta 14 and “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985” at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the Brooklyn Museum in New York, and the Pinacoteca de São Paulo. A retrospective of her work since the 1970s is currently on view at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam.
In the October 2018 issue of Artforum, Chloe Wyma wrote: “Vicuña’s Quipus do not appropriate or attempt to revive indigenous craft traditions, but evoke, in [Julia] Bryan-Wilson’s words, ‘indigenous knowledge systems . . . severed by colonial regimes.’ If these works hazard a certain fantasy of prelapsarian wholeness attached to the ancient soft technologies of Andean peoplesa reparation of language and materiality, the cogito and the bodythis fantasy is speculative, strategic, and bound up in Vicuña’s long-standing commitment to leftist, anti-imperialist politics.”