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Juan Muñoz was born in Madrid in 1953. Though he briefly studied architecture at the University of Madrid in the early 1970s and considered pursuing filmmaking, Muñoz’s formal training was in art, specifically printmaking, at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (London, 1976-77), Croydon College (London, 1979-80), and the Pratt Graphic Center (New York, 1981). While in New York, he was also an artist-in-residence at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center and expanded his work into sculpture. This move into a new formal vocabulary, in a medium that he would transform in contemporary art, was first motivated by critical and curatorial concerns. Muñoz’s interest in public art led him to interview the American artist Richard Serra who introduced him to Carmen Giménez (the curator of the Clark’s exhibition of Muñoz’s work and the Stephen and Nan Swid Curator of Twentieth-Century Art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York). With Giménez, who would become a friend, he curated the exhibition Correspondences: 5 Architects, 5 Sculptors. In 1983, after organizing an exhibition concerning images of animals in prehistoric and contemporary art, Muñoz abandoned curatorial work to focus solely on sculpture.
In addition to sculpture, Muñoz created works involving sound, recordings, and radio, including a1993 collaboration with Spanish composer Alberto Iglesias resulting in a "soundtape" for radio, Building for Music.
Muñoz participated in the Venice Biennale (1986, 1993, and 1997), and his work was also included in Documenta IX (1992) and Documenta XI (2002). He had major exhibitions at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2009); Guggenheim Bilbao (2008); Tate Modern (2008); the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C. (2001); the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, London (2001); and Dia Center for the Arts, New York (1999). In 2000, he was presented with the Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas, Spain's most prestigious art award.
After his sudden death in 2001, London’s Guardian newspaper noted that Munoz “was the most significant of the first generation of artists to achieve maturity in post-Franco Spain, and one of the most complex and individual artists working today. Muñoz has died at the height of his powers.”