Cecilia Vicuña’s ‘Brain Forest Quipu’ wins Best Art Installation in the 2023 Wallpaper* Design Awards

Brain Forest Quipu, Cecilia Vicuña's Hyundai Commission at Tate Modern, has been crowned Best Art Installation in the 2023 Wallpaper* Design Awards

Hyundai Commission for Tate Modern: Brain Forest Quipu, by Cecilia Vicuña
Hyundai Commission for Tate Modern: Brain Forest Quipu, by Cecilia Vicuña
(Image credit: Photography: Tate, Sonal Bakrania)

2022 was the year of Cecilia Vicuña. In April, the Chilean artist was honoured with the 59th Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement and she was the subject of a major show at New York’s Guggenheim. In October, this series of triumphs culminated in Brain Forest Quipu, the Chilean artist's epic Hyundai Commission for Tate Modern. 

Brain Forest Quipu, which has just been named Best Art Installation in the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2023, is a majestic, two-sculpture installation in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall that blends fibre art and ancient South American communication systems to explore ecology, community and social justice.

In an interview last year, Vicuña explained how the ‘very visceral, fantastic response’ to her monumental installation, Quipu Womb (2017), which debuted at Documenta 14 and was recently acquired by Tate, was part of the reason she was selected for the coveted Turbine Hall commission. 

Hyundai Commission for Tate Modern: Brain Forest Quipu, by Cecilia Vicuña, best art installation Wallpaper* Design Awards

Hyundai Commission for Tate Modern: Brain Forest Quipu, by Cecilia Vicuña

(Image credit: Photography: © Tate Photography (Matt Greenwood))

As Frances Morris, director of Tate Modern explained last year, ‘Vicuña has been an inspirational figure for half a century, championing concerns of ecology, community and social justice which grow ever more urgent today. Her radical textile sculptures combine pressing political messages with stunning visual form, creating a truly unforgettable experience for the viewer – one that resonates with and connects audiences all around the world. Recognition of Vicuña's powerful work is long overdue and I'm thrilled that she'll be bringing fibre art to the heart of Tate Modern for the first time.’

Given Vicuña's historical entanglement with London, where she lived in political exile in the 1970s, her Tate commission offers a sense of coming full circle. ‘I have a love for London, where everything was so difficult and beautiful at the same time. The Turbine Hall, in particular, feels like a park, like a public space, and people use it that way. I’m fascinated by that because that’s the origin of my art,’ she told us. ‘Whatever I do in the Turbine Hall will continue that spirit of complete fluidity of the public space. Even though it’s inside the museum, people take it differently, perhaps because it’s an industrial space, it belongs to everybody. Experiencing – not telling, but sensing, feeling – is the most powerful way of transmission.’

Hyundai Commission for Tate Modern: Brain Forest Quipu, by Cecilia Vicuña Best Art installation Wallpaper* Design Awards

Hyundai Commission for Tate Modern: Brain Forest Quipu, by Cecilia Vicuña

(Image credit: Photography: © Tate, Sonal Bakrania)

Cecilia Vicuña, Brain Forest Quipu, Hyundai Commission, until 16 April 2023, Tate Modern, London, tate.or (opens in new tab)g.uk

The winners of the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2023 are revealed in the February 2023 issue, available in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today (opens in new tab)

Harriet Lloyd-Smith is the Arts Editor of Wallpaper*, responsible for the art pages across digital and print, including profiles, exhibition reviews, and contemporary art collaborations. She started at Wallpaper* in 2017 and has written for leading contemporary art publications, auction houses and arts charities, and lectured on review writing and art journalism. When she’s not writing about art, she’s making her own.