Felix Gonzalez-Torres /   Felix González-Torres

United States 1957 - 1996

Installation, Sculpture, Photography


Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Felix González-Torres
United States
December 15, 2014

Best known for his minimal installations and sculptures in which he used materials such as packaged hard candies, clocks, strings of light bulbs, or stacks of paper, Felix Gonzalez-Torres was an American artist born in Cuba. This magnificent subversion of everyday materials was used to express the intimacy-in-distance and distance-in-intimacy as a conjoined dynamic, while it spoke tales of lost love, of photographs of the sublime everyday, the Minimalist economy. It was a wonderful intersection of art, pop culture, and politics, permeated with the inevitable AIDS fears that peaked right when the artist created. Of course, there was light. Somehow, it was always accompanied by the notion of darkness, while Gonzalez-Torres thoughtfully played a tug-of-war, confronting harsh reality and the idea of some better world.

The Story of Felix Gonzalez-Torres

Born in Guáimaro, Cuba, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and his sister Gloria were first sent to Madrid where they stayed in an orphanage until finally moving to Puerto Rico and settling with relatives.[1] He studied at Colegio San Jorge, where he graduated in 1976. Soon after, he began his studies at the University of Puerto Rico, while taking active participation in the local art scene. After earning a fellowship, the artist moved to New York in 1979. He was participating in the Whitney Independent Study Program in 1981 and 1983, where his development as an artist was profoundly influenced by his introduction to critical theory. In 1983, he attended the program for the second time and received his BFA in Photography from Pratt Institute of Art. He earned his Masters of Fine Arts from the International Center of Photography and New York University in 1987, and the same year he joined the Group Material (he was a member until 1991), a New York-based group of artists whose intention was to work collaboratively, adhering to principles of cultural activism and community education. Two years later, the Group was invited by the MATRIX Gallery at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive to address the issue of AIDS. Their efforts resulted in Group’s first AIDS Timeline, where the artists assembled their research into an overview, structured by year, of the circumstances under which the epidemic had turned into a national crisis. Among the objects of the investigation were events in the fields of medicine, politics, and statistics, representations of AIDS in the media, and artistic responses. They also addressed widespread stigmatization of people with AIDS, homophobia, and racism, placing these structures in a larger sociopolitical context.[2] Gonzalez-Torres taught at the New York University and briefly at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, and was granted a DAAD fellowship to work in Berlin in 1992 (but did not participate in the artist-in-residence program), and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1993.


There are several distinctive series, with only one mutual thing between – the vast majority of the works are entitled Untitled in quotation marks, sometimes followed by parenthetical title, an intentional naming scheme devised by the artist. Dateline pieces first appeared in 1987, when Gonzalez-Torres assembled lists of various dates in random order interspersed with the names of social and political figures and references to cultural artifacts or world events, many of which related to political and cultural history. These lists, printed in white type on black sheets of photographic paper by the “photostat” process, prompted viewers to consider the relationships and gaps between the diverse references as well the construction of individual and collective identities and memories. Begun in 1992, Gonzalez-Torres’ series of light strings are exemplars of the elegant and the eloquent. The viewer’s awareness of their own subjectivity in meaning-making immediately takes place. The light strings vary in length and in the number of bulbs, as well in their installation (which is left to the curator when they are exhibited). They are beautiful, joyful and transient, and yet seem like lone pillars of light in a dark world. One other important feature applied in his installations was the idea of removing – larger part of his installation works invites the viewer to simply take a piece of the work with them, like in a series where the artist would place the packaged candies in the corner of an exhibition space, allowing the visitors to take place in a greater story of passing time and inevitable death by taking candy, contributing to the slow disappearance of the sculpture over the course of the exhibition. Due to the nature of his removable installation, Gonzalez-Torres was considered to be a process artist. Billboards were the artist idea of bringing contemporary art into the public eye and further demystifying it. The images shown on the billboards are drawn from poetic moments in the artist’s life.[3] Opposite to the big, flashy commercials usually seen on billboards, which stand out in pretty much any environment, Gonzalez-Torres’ public pieces immediately became a part of the landscape, and a part of lives or ordinary people who had an opportunity to see them.


Felix Gonzalez-Torres died in 1996 due to AIDS. But who was really Felix Gonzalez-Torres? A Cuban? American? Gay? Artist? A man terminally ill? He was all of those things, and much more. He was an ordinary man with extraordinary abilities for expression, deeply entrenched in the world, feeling all of its darkness, pain, but also its happiness and joy. His talent was recognized during his short life and even shorter career. In 1995, he submitted a proposal for the Venice Biennale but was rejected as the US official representative. In 2007, he was posthumously selected to represent the United States at this prestigious event. With hopes of fostering an appreciation for his work among the general public, scholars, and art historians, the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation was created in 2002.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres lived and worked in New York.


  1. Elger, D., et al., ed. Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Catalogue Raisonné. Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 1997
  2. Ashford D., Ault J. Group Material: AIDS Timeline, Hatje Cantz, Munich, 2011
  3. Bennet S. Public Art Redefined, S.A. LIFE [February 24,2010]

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2017What I Loved - Selected Works From The '90SRegen Projects, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2017Felix Gonzalez-TorresCorvi-Mora, LondonSolo
2017Vanishing...Galerie Martine Aboucaya, ParisGroup
2016Sammeln ist wie Tagebuch fuhren Kleinskulpturen aus 50 JahrenGalerie Rainer Wehr, StuttgartGroup
201620 Bienal de Arte Paiz: Ordinary / Extraordinary: The democratization of art or the will to change thingsGuatemala CityGroup
2016Summer SchoolFLAG Art Foundation, New York City, NYGroup
2016DecorBoghossian Foundation, BrusselsGroup
2016Anywhere But HereBetonsalon, ParisGroup
2016Take Me (I’m Yours)The Jewish Museum, New York City, NYGroup
2016An Imagined Museum Works From The Centre Pompidou, The Tate And The MmkMuseum fur Moderne Kunst (MMK), Frankfurt/MainGroup
2016Dancing with Myself - Selbstportrat und Selbsterfindung Werke aus der Sammlung PinaultMuseum Folkwang, EssenGroup
2016Carte blanche a Tino SehgalPalais de Tokyo, ParisGroup
2016The Human Condition Session Ii: Human And The Others. Love, Friendship, Suspicion, AversionMoscow Museum of Modern Art, MoscowGroup
2016Felix Gonzalez-TorresAndrea Rosen Gallery, New York City, NYSolo
2016Felix Gonzalez-TorresMassimo De Carlo Milan, MilanSolo
2016Felix Gonzalez-TorresHauser & Wirth - London, LondonSolo
2016Vanishing PointRatio 3, San Francisco, CAGroup
2016Life SerialMiriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery - Columbia University, New York City, NYGroup
2016SleepIbid Projects - Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CAGroup
20151984-1999. La DecennieCentre Pompidou-Metz, MetzGroup
2015Felix Gonzalez-Torres: This PlaceMetropolitan Arts Centre (MAC), Belfast, Northern IrelandSolo
2015Rideaux BlindsIAC - Institut d'art contemporain Villeurbanne, Rhone-Alpes, VilleurbanneGroup
2015As high as the eye can seeForum Eugenio de Almeida, EvoraGroup
2015Damage ControlArt and Destruction Since 1950 - Kunsthaus Graz, GrazGroup
2014The Part In The Story Where A Part Becomes A Part Of Something ElseWitte de With Center for Contemporary Art, RotterdamGroup
2014Legacy: The Emily Fisher Landau CollectionGrand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids, MIGroup
2014Politique Soleil - The museum between light and shadowMUSEION - Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, BolzanoGroup
2014Yokohama TriennaleYokohama Triennale, YokohamaGroup
2014The New InternationalGarage Museum of Contemporary Art, MoscowGroup
2014Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary ArtThe Gund Gallery at Kenyon College, Gambier, OHGroup
2014A Letter Always ArriveThe Panacea, MontpellierGroup
2014GorgeousAsian Art Museum, San Francisco, CAGroup
2014Legacy: The Emily Fisher Landau CollectionSan Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CAGroup
2014Unstable Places: New in Contemporary ArtThe Israel Museum, JerusalemGroup
2014Felix Gonzales-Torres, Mina Lunzer, Jan TimmeGalerie Mezzanin, ViennaGroup
2014Do it MoscowGarage Museum of Contemporary Art, MoscowGroup
2014FootnotesHessel Museum of Art & Center for Curatorial Studies Galleries at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NYGroup
2014Hired HandThe Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, ILGroup
2014Lone TreeMarlborough Chelsea, New York City, NYGroup
2014Re-Framing HistoryGalerie Lelong - New York, New York City, NYGroup
2014Take It Or Leave It: Institution, Image, IdeologyHammer Museum, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2014Where There’s a Will, There’s a WayPinchukArtCentre, KievGroup
2014Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary ArtSite Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NMGroup
2013It is what it is. Or is it?Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TXGroup
2013The Naked ManLudwig Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art - Budapest, BudapestGroup
2013Love & DeathKODE, BergenGroup
2013Nyc 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash And No StarNew Museum of Contemporary Art, New York City, NYGroup
2013MixtapeMolaa Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CAGroup
2013Something Turned Into A ThingMagasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall, StockholmGroup
2013Tell It To My Heart: Collected by Julie AultMuseum fur Gegenwartskunst - Emanuel Hoffmann-Stiftung, BaselGroup
2013More Love: Art, Politics, and Sharing since the 1990sAckland Art Museum, Chapel Hill, NCGroup
2013Passing TimeGalleries at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, MAGroup
2013In Deed: Certificates of Authenticity in ArtWeatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NCGroup
2013Unsaid spoken, Selections From The Ella Fontanals–cisneros And Cifo CollectionsCIFO - Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, Miami, FLGroup
2013The progress of loveThe Menil Collection, Houston, TXGroup
2013This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980sICA - Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, Boston, MAGroup
2013Now Here is also Nowhere: Part IHenry Art Gallery, Seattle, WAGroup
2013Facing the Sublime in WaterArmory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CAGroup
2013To Be With Art Is All We AskAstrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, OsloGroup
2013Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty YearsThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NYGroup
2013Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Untitled Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJSolo
2013I Wish This Was A Song. Music in Contemporary ArtThe Museum of Contemporary Art Oslo, OsloGroup
2013Decade: Contemporary Collecting 2002–2012Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NYGroup
2013Passing TimeSalina Art Center, Salina, KSGroup
2013When Does Something Become Something Else? Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MNGroup
2013Over the RainbowUber Gluckseligkeit der Kunst - Kunstmuseum St.Gallen, St. GallenGroup
2013This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MNGroup
2013PaperMAMAC - Musee d´Art Moderne et d`Art Contemporain Nice, NiceGroup
2013The Nature Of Disappearance: Part 2 Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2013Caribbean: Crossroads Of The WorldQueens Museum of Art (QMA), New York City, NYGroup
2013The Floor Show: Gravity and MaterialsGagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, CAGroup
2013Watch Your StepFLAG Art Foundation, New York City, NYGroup
2013When Now is Minimal. The Unknown Side of the Sammlung GoetzMUSEION - Museum fur moderne und zeitgenossische Kunst , BolzanoGroup
2013A Matter of WordsOSL contemporary, OsloGroup
2013Six Ways To Sunday #03 – Cac Bretigny ReversibilityA Theatre Of De-Creation - Peep-Hole, MilanGroup
2013Passing Time - Richard E. Peeler Art CenterDePauw University , Greencastle, INGroup
2013How to MakeIdeen, Notationen, Materialisierungen - Kunsthaus Dresden, DresdenGroup
2013Matters of FactHessel Museum of Art & Center for Curatorial Studies Galleries at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NYGroup
2013Figuring ColorICA - Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, Boston, MAGroup
2013Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary ArtSmart Museum of Art, Chicago, ILGroup
2013This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980sMuseum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA), Chicago, ILGroup
2013The Poster ShowGalerie Carlier, Gebauer, BerlinGroup
2013Anywhere Better Than This Place: Selections From Molaa’s Permanent CollectionMolaa Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CAGroup
2013Macho Man, Tell It To My Heart: Collected by Julie AultArtists Space, New York City, NYGroup
20130 to 60: The Experience of Time through Contemporary ArtPratt Manhattan Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2013Where There’s a Will, There’s a WayPinchukArtCentre, KievGroup
2013Eye to I... 3,000 Years of PortraitsKatonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NYGroup
2013Don´t Ask Don´t TellFrancesco Pantaleone Arte Contemporanea - FPAC, PalermoGroup
2013Reinventing the Wheel: The readymade centuryMUMA - Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, VICGroup
2013Middle Gate Geel '13 Cultuurcentrum de Werft, GeelGroup
2013Legacy: The Emily Fisher Landau CollectionJoslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NEGroup
2013EthicsMarywood University Art Gallery, Scranton, PAGroup
2013Orpheus TwiceThe David Roberts Art Foundation, LondonGroup
2013Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary ArtBlaffer Art Museum - at the University of Houston, Houston, TXGroup
2013Indifferent Matter: From Object to SculptureHenry Moore Institute, LeedsGroup
2013Beyond Belief: 100 Years of the Spiritual in Modern ArtThe Contemporary Jewish Museum San Francisco, San Francisco, CAGroup
2013Tell It To My Heart - Collected by Julie AultFundacao Caixa Geral de Depositos - Culturgest, LisbonGroup
2013In DeedContemporary Art Centre (CAC), VilniusGroup
2013In a Sentimental MoodLa Galerie des Galeries Lafayette, ParisGroup
2013YouMostyn, Llandudno, WalesGroup
2013I, You, WeWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NYGroup
20130 to 60: The Experience of Time through Contemporary Art North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NCGroup
2013A WINDOW ON THE WORLD, from Durer to Mondrian and beyondMuseo Cantonale d´Arte Lugano, LuganoGroup
2012Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Double - PLATEAUSamsung Museum of Art, SeoulSolo
2011Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Specific Objects without Specific FormMuseum fur Moderne Kunst (MMK), FrankfurtSolo
2011American exuberanceRubell Family Collection, Miami, FLGroup
2011Dance Your LifeCentre Pompidou - Musee National d´Art Moderne, ParisGroup
2011Burning, Bright: A Short History of the Light BulbThe Pace Gallery - 545 West 22nd Street, New York City, NYGroup
2010Felix Gonzalez-Torres: BillboardsArtpace - San Antonio, San Antonio, TXSolo
2010Somewhere Nowhere Algun lugar Ningun lugarMuseo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo - MUAC, Mexico CitySolo
2010Felix Gonzalez-Torres Specific Objects without Specific FormWIELS - Centrum voor Hedendaagse kunst, BrusselsSolo
2008Félix González-Torres - MALBA Coleccion CostantiniMuseo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, Buenos AiresSolo
2007Felix Gonzalez Torres: Untitled (Placebo) 1991Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MASolo
2007The Bulletin Board - Felix Gonzales TorresWhite Columns, New York City, NYSolo
2007Felix Gonzalez Torres - Posters and CandyBie & Vadstrup Gallery, CopenhagenSolo
2006Felix Gonzales-Torres - Hamburger BahnhofMuseum fur Gegenwart, BerlinSolo
2006Felix Gonzalez-Torres and the formulation of the art of the 90sNeue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst (NGBK), BerlinSolo
2006Felix Gonzalez-Torres - Early ImpressionsEl Museo del Barrio, New York City, NYSolo
2005The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Project - Untitled (For Jeff)Indianapolis Museum of Art - IMA, Indianapolis, INSolo
2002Felix Gonzalez-Torres - It´s Just a Matter of Time Sadie Coles HQ, LondonSolo