Brazilian, born 1961
The Raft of the Medusa, 1999
Silver dye bleach print (Ilfochrome), two parts
68 3/16 × 100 7/16 × 1 3/4 in. (173.2 × 255.1 × 4.4 cm.)
Gift of the New Art Collectors 2000.14.3 a,b
This artwork is an example of a contemporary artist adapting a pre-existing image and making it their own through a new technique. Using Bosco chocolate sauce, Brazilian artist Vik Muniz recreates the composition of Théodore Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa, 1819. Muniz painted the chocolate on a lightbox using a needle. He then photographed the chocolate, and this diptych remains as a document of his creation. The original nineteenth-century Raft of the Medusa depicts shipwreck survivors desperately attempting to flag down a rescue ship. Gericault based this harrowing scene on accounts of an actual French shipwreck off the coast of Africa. In the hands of Muniz, however, the Raft assumes a much more playful significance. It is part of a series of work Muniz created using famous images from popular culture and art history, translating these images into materials such as chocolate, diamonds, and garbage. Through Muniz, we can ponder how images change in meaning over time and in different contexts.