Achievement Artist Award


Cecilia Vicuña (b. 1948) is a Chilean visual artist and poet whose work addresses ecological destruction, human rights, and cultural homogenization.


Vicuña’s ephemeral site-specific performance/installations, set in nature, streets, and museums, combine ritual and assemblage. She calls this practice “lo precario” (the precarious): transformative acts that bridge the gap between art and life, between the ancestral and the avant-garde. Her early paintings of revolutionary heroes and poets, depicted in the style of colonial saints, are considered pioneering examples of indigenous-led cultural decolonization.



“My art emerged from the unbound imagination of an Andean mestiza girl that refused censorship. In the late sixties, I came across the concept of the quipu and immediately embraced it, creating "the quipu that remembers nothing", a political statement on cultural erasure”. “For me, making quipus is an act of poetic resistance to colonization, a way of seeding with memory a different future for humanity”. –Cecilia Vicuña.






Photo courtesy of the artist


A Look Inside:


Born in Santiago de Chile in 1948, she has lived in exile since the overthrow of the Allende government in the early 1970s. Since 1980 she lives in New York.




MFA, National School of Fine Arts, University of Chile, Santiago (1971); Post Graduate Studies, Slade School of Fine Arts, University College, London (1972-1973).


Awards and residencies

SLAS Spring 2014 Scholar in Residence at The Department of Humanities and Media Studies at Pratt Institute, New York (2014) | “Spit Temple, Selected Performances of Cecilia Vicuña”, edited & translated by Rosa Alcalá, runner up 2013 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation (2013) | Sello de Excelencia, Consejo de las Artes y la Cultura de Chile (2011) | The Intangible Heritage Fondart Award for her project “Tugar Tugar Salir a Buscar el Sentido Perdido”, conducted in Caleu, Chile (2011) | Estelle Lebowitz Visiting Artist-in-Residence at the The Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series of the Institute for Women and Art (IWA) at Rutgers University (2009).


Selected Exhibitions 


“Cecilia Vicuña”, Lehman Maupin, NY (2018) | “Palabrarmas”, Neubauer Collegium, University of Chicago (2018) | “Quipu Desaparecido”, Brooklyn Museum, NY, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2018) | “Cecilia Vicuña: About to Happen”, Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans (2017); traveling to the Berkeley Art Museum (2018); ICA, Philadelphia (2019); Henry Art Gallery, Seattle (2019) | “Artists for Democracy: El Archivo de Cecilia Vicuña”, Museo de la Memoria y Los Derechos Humanos, y Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile (2014), among others.




“Migrations and Material Alchemy”, Princeton University Art Museum, NJ (2018) | Documenta 14, Athens, Greece, Kassel, Germany (2017) | “Radical Women, Latin American Art 1965-1985”, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Brooklyn Museum (2018); Pinacoteca de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil (2018) | “La timidité des cimes (The shyness of the crowns)”, Frac Lorraine, France (2017) | “Movimientos de Tierra”, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago Chile (2017) | Strange Oscillations and Vibrations of Sympathy, University Galleries, Illinois State University (2016) | “Una imagen llamada palabra”, Centro Nacional de Arte Contemporáneo, Cerrillos, Chile (2016) | “Archivo CADA”, Museo Nacional Centro de ArteReina Sofía, Madrid (2016) | “Embodied Absence: Ephemerality and Collectivity in Chilean Art from the 1970s”, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Boston, MA (2016), among others.