Vik Muniz copies the back sides of famous paintings

Steve Jobs’ dad once told him to paint the back of the fence just as he would the front.

“‘You got to make the back of the fence that nobody will see just as good looking as the front of the fence. Even though nobody will see it, you will know, and that will show that you’re dedicated to making something perfect.'”

Well, mixed-media artist Vik Muniz is doing something similar (kind of). He recreates the backs of famous paintings like the Mona Lisa which in addition to the word “haut,” French for “this side up,” also includes a particular type of wood and space for a modern age device.

The Mona Lisa was one of the largest challenges: Muniz had to buy a tree in Tennessee to re-create its frame, making sure to also precisely reconstruct the museum’s own contemporary update: an electronic device that monitors a gap nineteenth-century conservators had closed with a butterfly joint.

It took Muniz 6 years before the Louvre would give him permission to photograph the Mona Lisa, which he did to every detail. When he showcased his version, the museum’s curators could not even tell the difference.

Some of the works from this fifteen-year project are now an exhibit at the Vik Muniz: VersoMauritshuis. Muniz’s story is a reminder that creativity takes both patience and persistence.


Is the Mona Lisa really great art?

gif via Jess Mac

“The social scientists are right to say that we should be a little sceptical of greatness, and that we should always look in the next room. Great art and mediocrity can get confused, even by experts. But that’s why we need to see, and read, as much as we can. The more we’re exposed to the good and the bad, the better we are at telling the difference. The eclecticists have it.”

The Mona Lisa was an obscure piece of art before it was stolen. It benefitted from the “cumulative advantage” of being popular. So is it actually any good? I guess it depends on how susceptible you are to popularity and how well you understand art.