Oscar Muñoz

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Oscar Muñoz
Datos generales
Nombre Oscar Muñoz
Fecha de nacimiento 1951
Nacionalidad Colombiana Bandera de Colombia }}
Ocupación Artista
País de nacimiento Colombia Bandera de Colombia }}
Ciudad de nacimiento Popayán

Oscar Muñoz is one of Colombia’s most renowned contemporary artists. He was born in Popayán in 1951, but moved to Cali as a child and lives and works in the city to this day. His relationship with art began while still a high school student when he joined the Departmental Institute of Fine Arts. His work emerged amid the cultural upheaval that transformed Cali into a locus of the arts in the 1970s, in dialogue with projects such as Ciudad Solar and the Experimental Theater. Following an in-depth exploration of drawing and photography, around the 1990s he made a foray into the use of new materials and techniques, receiving significant accolades for his work combining drawing, photography, printmaking, sculpture, video and installation. In 2018 he was honored with the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography.


Although Muñoz was born in Popayán, he spent his early years in Venezuela. At the approximate age of eight, his family returned to Colombia and settled in the city of Cali. Before graduating high school, he began his training at the Departmental Institute of Fine Arts, where he completed initial training that was as yet not certified professionally. The influence of this center on the young people of Cali was complemented from some years previously by the founding of the La Tertulia Museum and its dissemination of modern art in the city. The atmosphere in the city during the 1970s was conducive to a creative boom in various fields. A variety of youth initiatives arose as an echo of the student movements that took place at the end of the previous decade, fostering a local counterculture founded on literature, theater, film and popular printmaking. It was a period that gave birth to projects such as the Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, the Cali Experimental Theater and Ciudad Solar, a cultural space that counted Andrés Caicedo, Luis Ospina and Carlos Mayolo among its members. The growth of graphic art and drawing in Cali would be pivotal in Munoz’s artistic career, taking the form of the holding of graphic art biennials. Also of great value would be the vision of the marginalization and bewilderment caused by the processes of urbanization that was revealed by the photography of Fernell Franco (1942-2006).

Artistic career

The career of Oscar Muñoz began in the 1970s with series of drawings, which incorporated photography without a conceptual interest in the medium and followed the currents of realism and hyperrealism that were dominant at the time. His work was close to that of other artists such as Ever Astudillo, Fernell Franco, Edgar Negret, Phanor Satizábal, María de la Paz Jaramillo and Pedro Alcántara Herrán, with the latter two being very close peers in the Experimental Graphic Workshop. The influence of the previous generation of artists also persisted at that time, including Bartelsman, Lucy Tejada and María Thereza Negreiros. A range of works by Muñoz from this decade are part of the collections of Colombia’s foremost art museums. During the 1980s, the art scene was witness to a saturation of drawing and graphic art that resulted in events and collective projects related to the mediums coming to an end. For many artists, this signified a return to periods of introspective and relatively isolated work. For Muñoz, this period was characterized by a transition from the dark images of the 1970s to other, more luminous art. His experimentation with the Cortinas de baño (Shower curtains) dates from this decade, and the piece marks a shift in his use of materials and mediums. From the 1990s, Muñoz delved deeper into experimentation with new methodologies based on his initial experience with drawing, printmaking and photography, which he now blended with video, sculpture and installation. The challenges posed by the works he created from then on entailed technical support for the sound, visual and photographic handling. He continued to use materials over the medium of water, as in Narciso (Narcissus), and incorporated steam as an image developer, as can be seen in Aliento (Breath). Some of these works entered the collections of London’s Tate Modern Gallery, the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Los Angeles County Art Museum (LACMA) and the Daros Latinamerica Collection in Zurich[1]. In 2005, Muñoz set out to be a cultural manager with the creation of Lugar a Dudas, a space to promote the visual arts in Cali based on a residency program for young artists.

Characteristics of her work

Drawing is a cross-cutting element in the visual work of Oscar Muñoz. After opting to focus on urban landscapes in the 1970s, he has explored drawing using a variety of materials and formats: light and shade, outlines and contrasts, and the function of dividing and structuring what is observed that is involved in the practice. Beyond its technical definition, Muñoz highlights the relevance of drawing as an activity of thought. Vital to these reflections has been the essay “The Craftsman” by the American sociologist Richard Sennett. From the outset, Muñoz’s work has been recognized for its sensitivity to historical and social phenomena in Colombia. In the numerous international exhibitions devoted to his career, he has been highlighted for his approach to themes such as memory, forgetting, and appearance and disappearance in photographic images. Following his youthful interest in the living conditions of tenement houses in Cali, in his more recent work he makes use of archive images that bring into the present public and anonymous scenes and figures from the social and political violence in the country. The indefinable position of his images in the instant before and after fixing was the reason for his technique being defined using the expression “protograph”. In an interview for his retrospective exhibition in Bogotá in 2011, he revealed details of his subjective and environmental experience that enable a clear interpretation of some of the most significant traits of his work. The monochrome nature of the majority of his works and the predominance of black and white are related to his color blindness. Moreover, the climate of Cali and the city’s moist, warm haze, known as “calina” or “calima”, leads to blurry and distorted sight: “A long time ago, I said somewhere that there’s a time of day in Cali when people seem to crumble apart”.

Featured works

  • 1976: Inquilinato (Tenement Houses)
  • 1980: Interiores (Interiors)
  • 1986: Pinturas de Agua (Water Paintings) series (collection of the La Tertulia Modern Art Museum in Cali)
  • 1986-1992: Cortinas de baño (Shower Curtains)
  • 1988: Espacios (Spaces)
  • 1991: Tiznados (Sooty)
  • 1994: Ambulatorio (Ambulatory)
  • 1995-2001: Narciso (Narcissus; collection of the Tate Modern in London and the New York Museum of Modern Art)
  • 1995-2002:Aliento (Breath)
  • 1999-2007: Pixeles (Pixels)
  • 2003-2004: Re/trato (Portrait/I Try Again)
  • 2007: El juego de las probabilidades (The Game of Probabilities; collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art)
  • 2011: Impresiones débiles (Weak Impressions)
  • 2011: Sedimentaciones (Sedimentations; collection of the Tate Modern in London) and Editor solitario (Solitary Editor), commissioned by the Banco de la República for the Protographs exhibition.

Works by Oscar Muñoz in the collections of the Banco de la República

Works by Oscar Muñoz in the collections of the Banco de la República
Title Year Location Technique Registration number
Vicky 1974 Reserve Drawing AP0536
Inquilinato (Tenement House) 1976 ON EXHIBITION Bogotá, Bogotá Cultural Center, Miguel Urrutia Art Museum (MAMU), permanent exhibition from the art collection (classic, experimental and radical) Drawing AP5288
Untitled (from the graphic portfolio of popular struggle in Colombia) Reserve Print AP0851
Untitled (from the portfolio

"Libertad - Colombia")

1979 Reserve Print AP1042
Mujeres (Women) series No.12 1980 Reserve Drawing AP1172
Interiores (Interiors) 1980 ON EXHIBITION

Bogotá, Bogotá Cultural Center, Miguel Urrutia Art Museum (MAMU), permanent exhibition from the art collection

Drawing AP5277
Espacios (Spaces) 1988 Painting AP5276
Cortinas de baño (Shower curtains) 1992 Painting AP2149
Simulacros (Simulations) 1999 Reserve Installation AP4939
Narciso (Narcissus) 2001 Video AP4137
Editor Solitario (Solitary Editor) 2011 Reserve Video installation AP5325
Sedimentaciones (Sedimentations) 2011 Reserve Video AP5195


  • 1951: Born in Popayán.
  • 1971: Completes his studies in art at the IDBA.
  • 1976: Features at the 26th National Colombian Artists Show.
  • 1986: Takes part in the 30th National Artists Show with the series “Pinturas de Agua” (Water Paintings).
  • 2004: Participates in the 39th National Artists Show with the video “Re/trato” (Portrait/I Try Again).
  • 2005: Founds Lugar a Dudas. Takes part in the group exhibition Cantos cuentos colombianos (Colombian Songs Tales) at the Daros Latinamerica Collection in Zurich.
  • 2006: Forms part of the exhibition “Analog Animation” at The Drawing Center in New York.
  • 2007: His works are exhibited in the “The Hours” show at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin and the Venice Biennale.
  • 2008: Holds individual exhibitions in various cities: “Oscar Muñoz: Documents of Amnesia” at the Ibero-American Museum of Contemporary Art in Badajoz; “Mirror Image” at the Institute of International Visual Arts in London; and “Imprints for a Fleeting Memorial” at the Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art in Toronto.
  • 2009: Holds an exhibition at the Bildmuseet in Sweden.
  • 2011: The Banco de la República presents a national retrospective of his work, entitled Protographs and curated by José Roca and María Wills. The exhibition also visits the Medellín Museum of Modern Art (MAMM) and the Museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires.
  • 2014: The Jeu de Paume National Gallery in Paris devotes a retrospective exhibition to his work.
  • 2018: Receives the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography.

See also


  1. Press release, Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, March 8 2018.


1.Fernández, L. (2010). Las manos inteligentes de Oscar Muñoz (The intelligent hands of Oscar Muñoz). Papel de colgadura, 4, 76-85.

2. Lleras, C. et al. (2006). Marca registrada. Salón Nacional de Artistas: tradición y vanguardia en el arte colombiano (Registered trademark. National Artists Show: tradition and avant-garde in Colombian art). Bogotá: National Museum of Colombia, Editorial Planeta.

3. Wills, M. (2011). Entrevista retrospectiva a Oscar Muñoz. Exposición “Protografías

Art collection of the Banco de la República


1.Research and text: Oscar David Rodríguez, mediator of the museums and collections of the Banco de la República, for Banrepcultural.

2. Text revision and editing: Inti Camila Romero Estrada and Diana Marcela Salas Solórzano. Public and Educational Services, Art and Other Collections Unit (UAOC).