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Selected Works

Offrande pour une nouvelle conscience (Offering for a new conscience), 2022

cotton string crochet, cotton knit fabric, cotton padding, wooden structure, plywood, ceramic pots, lavender, santoline, rosemary, speakers, sand, river pebbles and wooden handles
650 x 670 x 590 cm.; 255 7/8 x 263 3/4 x 232 1/4 in.
Installation view: Galerie Max Hetzler, Paris, 2022
Photo: Nicolas Brasseur

‘In June 2021, when connecting with the space / spirit of the Max Hetzler gallery, with the perspective of preparing this show, I had a vision of a large tree stump with its roots expanding to the walls of the gallery, from which leaves climbed up the walls, and on the stump people meditated. I found this image of people meditating on the tree stump very odd. When drawing it, the image resembled the body of a frog, which also brought to mind the image of a Samaúma tree (known in English as Kapok Tree), the queen of the forest with its gigantic roots, hence the name SapoSamaúna (SamanúnaFrog or KapokFrog). […]

Months passed, and the strangeness of meditation on a tree stump stayed with me. Whenever I concentrated on the exhibition my body would coil up and from the slight opening of my eyes I saw a tree-like dome made of vine-tubes in crochet filled with leaves and, in the centre of it all, a round drum with a map of the earth.’

Ernesto Neto, ‘Offering for a new conscience’, 2022

Números oficiais da devastação (Devastation official numbers) [Da Série Toneladas e Cifrões A caverna contemporânea], 2022

oil, wood and banknotes on canvas
128 x 228 cm.; 50 3/8 x 89 3/4 in.
Photo: Nicolas Brasseur

‘Thousands of years ago we painted bison, horses and other beings on cave walls; today we paint graphics showing riches that look more like our misery. I am not a painter, but this state of ultimatum that we are living in has led me to reflect on this strange reality in the form of Sculpt-Painted Canvases.’

Ernesto Neto, ‘Offering for a new conscience’, 2022

SoPolpoVit’EreticoLe, 2021

Installation view: GAMeC / Palazzo della Ragione, Bergamo, 2021
Photo: Lorenzo Palmieri

‘Ahh, we also had the coronavirus – this heretical being, this living beast, not our brother, but our tormentor, where we are the household of its life, of something that hampers our breathing, which is our contact with Gaia – earth-life, mother-place, body-landscape – us, their world and them invading our world, asking: who are we? What are we? We were shown a yellow card as individuals and society. We are made of three trillion cells, with our DNA. A quadrillion foreign cells, microbes, bacteria, including different viruses, which we need to live. The cell, the beginning of life, all these things took me to the bottom of the sea, billions of years ago. That’s where this octopus-cell – SoPolpoVit’EreticoLe – came from, with its membranes-tentacles, snakes, constrictive boa constrictors, folds, lines, chromosomes, necklaces, sprouting day after day, one stone after the other…’

E. Neto in conversation with M. Bergamini, ‘Fingers are masters: Interview with Ernesto Neto’, in Umbigo Magazine, 9 September 2021

SunForceOceanLife, 2020

crocheted textile and plastic balls
installation dimensions variable
Installation view: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2021
Photo: Albert Sanchez

‘The suspended sculpture has the form of a spiral galaxy with a centre and two arms-fingers coming down. These ‘arms’ are the way for visitors to get up inside of it and back down again.

[…] The centre is red, and then it goes down to orange, yellow and finally green when touching the ground – as a metaphor for the force of sunlight and the heat coming to our planet and bringing life through photosynthesis. Life that began in the oceans, the same oceans that are now being polluted by plastic.

[…] The piece is an invitation for people to get into the sun, our father made of fire, who burns hydrogen through the mass compression of the force of gravity. So that’s the paradox, the negative and the positive of our activities boiled down to the earth over our human nature. We need balance, the work will be in balance, and let’s see what the art can teach us. Life is learning, and learning is not an easy or light process. Sometimes it burns, but we need to just be careful and listen to our true heart and to our fingers. The heart blesses, the fingers teach.’

E. Neto in conversation with U. Meistere, ‘From Homo sapiens to Homo solidarius’, in spiriterritory by arterritory, 12 May 2020

Cura bra cura té, 2019

crochet and cotton voile curtain, knitted and crochet rug, wooden trunk, carbon steel discs, embroidered ribbons, ceramic dishes, coffee, sugar, soy, iron slag, saffron, lavender, sand, plants, herbs, musical instruments and pillows
curtain: 12.55 x 48 m.; 1255 x 4800 cm.; 494 1/8 x 1889 3/4 in.
crochet: 12.82 m.; 1282 cm. ø; 504 3/4 in. ø
carpet: 10.65 m.; 1065 cm. ø; 419 1/4 in. ø
Installation view: Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo, 2019
Photo: Levi Fanan

GaiaMotherTree, 2018

woven cotton fabric, turmeric, cloves, cumin, black pepper and plant seeds
installation dimensions variable; height: 20 m.; 2000 cm.; 787 3/8 in.; area: over 40 x 38 m.; 15748.03 x 3799.99 cm.; 1574 3/4 x 3800 in.
Installation view: Zürich Main Station, Zurich, 2018
Photo: Mark Niedermann © Fondation Beyeler

GaiaMotherTree pays homage to our Mother Earth, as a place that nurtures us and fuels relationships. The installation wants to stop the passer-by for a moment and plant a seed inside him or her. It is a place to be, to breathe, to dream. It wants us to feel alive, to feel how wonderful it is to be alive. So it is a place to share that joy, to share ideas and dreams, to think, to meditate, even to dance. It is a place to be!

[…] A train station is actually an interesting place, because in a station people are continuously arriving or leaving, in a state of going somewhere and arriving from somewhere. Our thoughts are either in the future or in the past. We hardly spend any time thinking about us actually being in the station. I like this notion of the “in-between.” Maybe GaiaMotherTree can fill this space. As a place to meet, to interact, and to meditate, and by its sheer presence, it may be able to act as a binding link between you and me, between us and nature, between us and civilization, and maybe between us and “God”.’

E. Neto in conversation with F. Langhammer, ‘In the Studio: Ernesto Neto, Rio de Janeiro’, in Collectors Agenda, July 2018

Water Falls from My Breast to the Sky, 2017

cotton voile crochet, cotton knit fabric, cotton rope, stones, polyamide stockings, lavender, wood, polyurethane foam and painted bowls
overall dimensions variable
Installation view: Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 2017
Photo: Nathan Keay © Museum of Cotemporary Art Chicago

‘…crochet is a question of time. I am making a crochet now while I am doing this interview, it keeps spinning around. I think if people stop and make a crochet for half an hour a day you would have a better day. You have to be a little bit humble to make a crochet because you cannot jump the points too much. You gotta go one after another. It is kind of cool, especially nowadays when time becomes so compressed. With cell phones and all these things, why? To have more time. And now we have less time than we had before because of it. With crochet, you breathe, and let it go. I think it is human and natural.’

E. Neto and P. Frank, ‘Ernesto Neto’s Crocheted ‘Cuddle On The Tightrope’ Comes To Nasher Sculpture Center’, in HuffPost, 16 May 2012

NixiForestKupiXawa, 2015

ceiling crochet, painted pattern on the wall and straw matting
650 x 1550 x 1010 cm.; 255 7/8 x 610 1/4 x 397 5/8 in.
Installation view: Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, 2015
Photo: Jens Ziehe

‘Aru Kuxipa expresses the vision and dream of the Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto and the Amazonian artists, plant masters, and pajés (shamans) of the thirty-seven Jordão Huni Kuin communities to co-create a place of transformation, a zone of encounter and expression, and a site of healing away from their ancestral lands. Sanctioned by a communal decision to come to Vienna and to perform and share within the space of art the Huni Kuin’s sacred forms of expression, art, ritual, and knowledge, the exhibition traces luminous trajectories into our “ancestral futures”.’

[…] The spiritual center of the exhibition is demarcated by NixiForestKupiXawa (2015), a communal space of gathering, sheltering rituals, celebrations, and immersive contemplation.”

Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21), 2015

Paxpa - There is a Forest Encantada Inside of Us, 2014

cotton fabric, polyamide fabric, sand, marble, raffia and plywood
480 x 1160 x 1160 cm.; 189 x 456 5/8 x 456 5/8 in.
Installation view: Kunsthalle Krems, 2015
Photo: Christian Redtenbacher

‘Our body is a huge landscape. A lot of life is going on in there; and so we are not alone. This generates different things. For example, my work has tried to show this connection for a long time, I have tried to show this continuity between body and landscape, which means ourselves and our environment. But we are always inside of this landscape, as this landscape is inside of us.’

E. Neto in conversation with P. Joos, ‘Conversación con Ernesto Neto / Conversation with Ernesto Neto’, in El Cuerpo Que Me Lleva / The Body that Carries Me, exh. cat., Bilbao: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2014, p. 24

btw us, 2013

2 photographs, 2 ceramic pots with plants (Kalanchoe Tomentosa and Aloe Variegata)
diptych: 146 x 110 cm.; 57 1/2 x 43 1/4 in. (framed)
Installation view: Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, 2013
Photo: def image

‘How deeply nature is living inside of us. Nature is everywhere, it’s more than what we commonly call “the nature”. We are nature.
[…] It’s also about the relation you have with an artwork. You have to take care of it, you have to water it. You have to see it and spend time with it every day.’

E. Neto in conversation with J.M. Gallais, ‘Ernesto Neto’, in Remember Everything: 40 Years Galerie Max Hetzler, exh. cat., Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin; Berlin/London: Holzwarth Publications/Ridinghouse, 2014, p. 152

hand play mind, 2013

30 mm corten steel
163 x 159 x 294 cm.; 64 1/8 x 62 5/8 x 115 3/4 in.
Installation view: Ernesto Neto, hand play mind, Sculpture Park at the Stiftung zur Förderung zeitgenössischer Kunst in Weidingen, 2013
Photo: def image

‘The steel sculptures […] are playing on antagonistic relations. They are in a way very soft and very hard at the same time. You need big machines to install them but it’s like a construction game. Once the different parts are connected with each other, they find their balance. You know, there is a flexibility in the steel.

[…] The use of a dense material like steel is something deeply rooted in Brazil, we feel we need it. I don’t know why. Maybe because the steel comes out of the ground here, there is a lot of steel in the state of Minas Gerais, beside Rio de Janeiro. Also, this is a material that rusts, and the rusting brings a “naturality”. It breaks this high-tech spirit of the metal-coated materials, so usual in this clean world we are living in today.’

E. Neto in conversation with J.M. Gallais, ‘Ernesto Neto’, in Remember Everything: 40 Years Galerie Max Hetzler, exh. cat., Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin; Berlin/London: Holzwarth Publications/Ridinghouse, 2014, p. 153

Kink, 2012

aluminium, crocheted polyester and polypropylene rope, polypropylene balls, air, wood, felt and rubber
434.3 x 2032 x 416.6 cm.; 171 x 800 x 164 in.
Installation view: Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, 2012
Photo: Julius Pickenpack

‘The continuity between our body and the world in itself, the universe, the background… it made me create this space where people could walk in. The piece we have here, through these works I began to make a piece in which you could climb steps and cross the horizon by going up steps. It was a way to be more inside the atmosphere. And then I began to think how can I make a work when people can walk, floating, on the space? And that is how I made these sculptures.’

E. Neto in conversation with P. Frank, ‘Ernesto Neto’s Crocheted “Cuddle On The Tightrope” Comes To Nasher Sculpture Center’, in HuffPost, 16 May 2012

Life is a River, 2012

clove, cumin, turmeric, cotton fabric and polyamide fabric
2.59 x 10 x 5.08 m.; 259 x 1000 x 508 cm.; 102 x 393 3/4 x 200 in.
Photo: Andrej Peunik

A vida é um corps do qual fazes part / Life Is a Body We Are Part Of, 2012

crochet and polypropylene balls

740 x 786 x 1486 cm.; 291 3/8 x 309 1/2 x 585 in.
Installation view: Espace Louis Vuitton, Tokyo, 2012–2013
Photo: Jérémie Souteyrat © Louis Vuitton

‘It is a sculpture to be experienced. We also have the idea to lift people up close to the glass building in such a way that would cause them to experience some vertigo, or at least deal with the feeling of floating in the “Sky”. The piece is a work which deals with stability – how we move, desire and fear. With this work, we try to create a place that is body or animal-like, and at the same time a landscape for ourselves. The door is the portal between these two universes, or the continuity of them. The walls’ skin on the piece is made with interconnected spiral crochet cells. The body catwalk is made of ‘Roe Cells’ – tubes full of plastic balls.’

L. C. Osorio, Madness is part of Life, exh. cat., Tokyo: Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo, 2012, p. 46

O Bicho SusPenso na PaisaGen, 2011

crochet with polypropylene rope, polypropylene balls and stones

7.35 x 44.65 x 21.45 m.; 735 x 4465 x 2145 cm.; 289 3/8 x 1757 7/8 x 844 1/2 in.
Installation view: Estação Leopoldina, Rio de Janeiro, 2012
Photo: Eduardo Ortega

CélulaBlanço [Swing Cell], 2010

crochet, polypropylene balls, polyamide fabric knots, hardboard and polyurethane
380 x 1200 x 1300 cm.; 149 5/8 x 472 1/2 x 511 3/4 in.
Installation view: Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, 2010
Photo: Everton Ballardin

‘In 1994 I wanted to make a textile without sewing and I began to use crochet, I asked my grandmother, vovó Lia, and her sister, tia Vera to teach me how to crochet — they thought I was joking!! They could not believe I was even able to do it, like it would be absurd for men to try. I like to work with some material and action that would be more typical for woman. I love this idea of the continuity between men and women — in the moral sense, but also in the psycho-topological sense, female and male is just negative and positive, it’s like casting a sculpture, we have the model and the mold, so I’m very much interested in this ambiguity.’

E. Neto and J. Morgan, ‘Conversation in Buenos Aires’, in La Lengua de Ernesto (Ernesto’s Tongue), exh. cat., Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Mexico, Mexico: Faena Arts Center Buenos Aires, 2011, p. 47

anthropodino, 2009

polyamide tulle, handmade polyamide carpet, maple plywood, clove, black pepper, paprika, cumin, ginger, turmeric, sand, lavender, camomile, black gravel, river stones, rice, plastic balls, glass beads, polypropylene string, Styrofoam beads and polyurethane foam
5852 x 3719 x 2103 cm.; 2304 x 1464 1/8 x 828 in.

Installation view: Park Avenue Armory, New York, 2009
Photo: James Ewing

Anthropodino comes from the terms “anthropology” and “anthropophagia”. Anthropophagia is an artistic movement that began in Brazil in the 1920’s… This whole orchestration reminds me of anthropology because I am thinking human beings… There is an architectonic relation between the practicality of how [the piece] is built in a very handmade manner, even though I employ technology to generate all the files and make the cuts in these textiles. I’m very interested because I’m a sculptor, and sculptors think about weight — about how to put a sculpture up.

[…] The whole anthropodino idea considers the human being in a scientific way, not only as an individual or as a part of society, but in the sense of an organ. In society, the human being must be an organ or cell. So this is a cell. The drawing of this piece depicts a cellular structure — mitochondria with ribosomes and membranes. This piece acts as a center of energy for the people who move around it.’

E. Neto in conversation with J. Wilcox, ‘Anthropodino: A Conversation with Ernesto Neto’, in ARTNews, 26 May 2009

Life is a Relationship, 2007

two plywood tables, 10 coloured stools and black Styrofoam
dimensions variable
Installation view: Galerie Max Hetzler, Oudenarder Straße 16-20, Berlin, 2007

‘[Life is a relationship] shows a number of curiously looking chairs and two tables, on which an object stands. The irregular “puzzle pieces” that make up the tables and the chairs reappear in the composition of the objects, which vaguely resemble a developing organism or even the representation of a DNA chain. This environment, where viewers can gather round, simultaneously and immediately inspires an experience of a bodily structure that is continually in motion.’

P. T’Jonck, ‘About SuperBodies: the many guises of the body’, in Super Bodies: 3rd Triennial of Contemporary Art, Fashion and Design, exh. cat., Standaard Uitgeverij NV Algemeen, 1st edition, Antwerp: Lido, 2012, p. 125

Mother body emotional densities, for alive temple time baby son, 2007

polyester Lycra, turmeric, clove, cumin, ginger, pepper and annatto
installation dimensions variable
Collection: Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego
Photo: Pablo Mason

‘Gravity is a very intimate force. To me gravity is probably the closest expression of God – a spiritual power, a vital energy that holds everything together. It can hinder us, but it can also comfort us. Gravity reminds us of our existence by letting us sense the weight of our own body.’

E. Neto in conversation with F. Langhammer, ‘In the Studio: Ernesto Neto, Rio de Janeiro’, in Collectors Agenda, July 2018

Energy Vibrations and Movement at Micro Nature, 2007

tumeric and clove on paper
each: 151.5 x 202.5 cm.; 59 5/8 x 79 3/4 in.
overall: 303 x 202.5 cm.; 119 1/4 x 79 3/4 in.

‘A drawing is like the shadow of sculptures.’

E. Neto in conversation with A. Pedrosa, ‘Intimate Sculptures’, in La Lengua de Ernesto (Ernesto’s Tongue), exh. cat. Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Mexico, Mexico: Faena Arts Center Buenos Aires, 2011, p. 35

Léviathan Thot, 2006

polyamide tulle, polyamide fabric, styrofoam balls
5300 x 6200 x 5600 cm.; 2086 5/8 x 2441 x 2204 3/4 in. Installation view: 35éme Festival d’Automne a Paris, Panthéon, Paris, 2006
Photo: Marc Domage

‘The gigantic sculpture Léviathan Thot, which Neto created in 2006 for the Panthéon in Paris, represents the culmination of this concept of sculpture: Léviathan Thot is both a microstructure in its resemblance to organic tissue and a macro-structure in its room-filling, zoomorphic symmetry derived from the Old Testament sea monster and the ibis-headed or baboon-shaped Egyptian god of science.

In Léviathan Thot Neto’s social utopia of a natural state shines through, one not restricted by rigid rulers or demonized by chastening monsters, but promoting the (re)construction of the congruence of the natural and social body.’

V. Gamper, ‘Cell - Organ - Organism: Ernesto Neto’s sculptural nature’, in Ernesto Neto, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Krems, Krems: Walther König, 2015, p. 91

Colors, Cultures, Knots and Time, 2006

cotton and plastic rings
266.5 x 330 cm.; 105 x 130 in.
Collection: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca

‘The overarching organicity of [Neto’s] art extends to his practice of avoiding gluing, screwing or melting to join components in favour of fitting them together or tying them. As he explains: “Every part is in fact gently joined as a metaphor for organic relations. I never use glue, screws or nails, but connect the various elements as a natural continuum I’m always looking for”. Knots as natural products of the collision between organic dynamics and gravity represent the most natural kind of connection.’

E. Neto, V. Gamper, ‘Cell - Organ - Organism: Ernesto Neto’s sculptural nature’, in Ernesto Neto, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Krems, Krems: Walther König, 2015, p. 73

O tempo lento do corpo que é pele. The slow pace of the body that is skin, 2004

foam, Lycra, rug, wood, polyamide and spices
950 x 680 x 150 cm.; 374 x 267 3/4 x 59 in.
Collection: Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna
Photo: PUNCTUM/Alexander Schmidt

‘…In all my work, the skin is a symbol of our existence in time. Skin permeability was so clear through these works… coloured powders were coming out of the pores of the pieces, like sweat…’

E. Neto in conversation with D. Denegri, ‘Timelessness’, in MACRO/HALL: Ernesto Neto, exh. cat., Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma; Verona: Electa, 2008, p. 21

Body Space Nave Mind, 2004

Lycra, aluminium, Styrofoam, rice and herbs
installation dimensions variable
Collection: 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan
Photo: Kazuo Fukunaga

‘I try to create places that are not spaces of resistance, but rather, are areas of insight for people, places where people manage somehow to alienate themselves from the daily life and interact with another existential possibility, but that each person will have a different interpretation. I am not a saint; I do not think that it is going to save the world. My goal is to embrace people, take care of people, carry them as if I were carrying a baby. The space in which I work is pre-language space. It is an area for understanding the physical world, texture, weight, colour, temperature, joy, sadness. It is the space of affective relationships with the world..’

E. Neto in conversation with C. Menezes, ‘Understanding the Expansion of Universe: An interview with Ernesto Neto’, in Studio International, 9 September 2010

Just Like Drops in Time, Nothing, 2002

polyamide fabric and spices
dimensions variable
Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Photo: Philippe Migeat

Esqueleto Glóbulos, 2001

polyamide tulle, Styrofoam balls and sand

450 x 400 x 1400 cm.; 177 1/8 x 157 1/2 x 551 1/8 in.
Collection: Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna
Photo: PUNCTUM/Alexander Schmidt

Humanóides, 2001

polyamide tube, polyamide stockings, velvet, spices and Styrofoam balls, 18 pieces
dimensions variable
Collection: Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna
Photo: Boris Becker

‘In search for a more intimate and complex contact with the beholder, Ernesto has conceived a series of polyamide and polystyrene sculptures that must be worn by the beholder like bags and prostheses. After the touch and penetration, there comes the time to wear. However, it is not really a matter of “wearable art”, or a crossing between art and fashion. When wearing the sculptures, we feel in our skin and our body their weight, volume and texture. We can walk with the Humanóides (Humanoids). Their verticality is provided by us and the notion of anthropomorphism depends on the human body carrying the sculpture. We can also seat on the Humanóide, which gets more flexible and protects us, within it and with it. They are fat and soft sculptures of different heights: small, to be used by children; taller, for adults. These Humanóides have sex or gender: behind the sculpture there is an orifice which our arm can penetrate and inside we find something that feels like a feminine or masculine organ. The Humanóides are sculptures above all, with sculptural presence and physicality. The sculpture’s skin and body adhere to ours.’

A. Pedrosa, ‘Intimate sculptures’, in La Lengua de Ernesto (Ernesto’s Tongue), exh. cat., Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Mexico; Mexico: Faena Arts Center Buenos Aires, 2011, pp. 36-37

It happens when the body is anatomy of time, 2000

Lycra tulle, clove, cumin and turmeric
355 x 1060 x 940 cm.; 139 3/4 x 417 3/8 x 370 1/8 in.
Installation view: Kunsthal Rotterdam, 2021–2022
Photo: Ossip van Duivenbode

‘I rather think that the body carries the meanings itself. That is critical of our need to find so many meanings to live. There is this desperate need of explanations of everything. I mean, I really love to have explanations, to read things, to know how things work, or different opinions of things, but at the same time I am kind of critical of this metallization of the planet we live in. I really try to reinterpret nature through my work and think about nature, but think about nature not as painting or landscape, but thinking about it structurally, how one thing in nature deals with the other. How our landscape has become much bigger. We have a microscope and we can see things inside, and we have a telescope and we can see things outside. I’m interested in this level of breathing, the atmosphere that we have around us, the micro to the macro. And I think what I want when people have a relationship [to the installation] is that they feel that their selves are there, that the body is something we have in common.’

E. Neto, in V. Gamper, ‘Cell - Organ - Organism: Ernesto Neto’s sculptural nature’, in Ernesto Neto, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Krems, Krems: Walther König, 2015, p. 100

We Fishing the Time (densidades e buracos de minhoca), 1999

polyamide tulle and stockings, black pepper, curry and powder clove
450 x 2000 x 1000 cm.; 177 1/8 x 787 3/8 x 393 3/4 in.
Installation view: First Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art, Tate Gallery, Liverpool, 1999
Collection: Tate, London
Photo: George Neffky

We Fishing the Time (densidades e buracos de minhoca) is an installation that fills an entire room. Originally designed for installation at Tate Liverpool on the occasion of the 1999 Liverpool Biennial, the work was titled to reflect the fact that it was made in England by a Brazilian, whose English has grammatical idiosyncrasies. Neto, a native of Rio de Janeiro, coupled Portuguese with English by splitting the title in two and exchanging parts, so that in the English version the title’s second half appears in Portuguese, and vice versa for the Portuguese version. The title is derived from two images: Neto’s memories of seeing fishermen casting their nets; and the poetic visualisation of the infinite space of the universe as a skin beyond which there are fissures and a network of worm holes and passages leading to other levels and densities.’

E. Manchester, ‘We Fishing the Time densidades e buracos de minhoca’, Tate Website, 2006

Navedenga, 1998

polyamide stretch fabric, sand, Styrofoam, cloves, cord and ribbon
365.8 x 457.2 x 640.1 cm.; 144 x 180 x 252 in.
Installation view: Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, 2010
Collection: Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York
Photo: Thomas Griesel © The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

‘When people climb into new pieces for the first time, I watch new aspects of the works being born. Also, when someone decides to get inside of a piece, they have another level of experience through the atmosphere created by these unexpectedly organic bodies. I believe that as living human beings we have a particular body in time, a kind of island in a cultural-physical world with skin as the border or limit. I like to work at that limit.’

E. Neto in conversation with B. Arning, ‘Ernesto Neto by Bill Arning’, in Bomb Magazine, 1 January 2000

Quarks paff, 1998

polyamide tube, spices (turmeric and cloves)
dimensions variable
Installation view: studio

M.E.D.I.T., Metamorfose espiritual do inconsciente topológico, 1994

black and white photograph, 7 pieces
each 102 x 82 x 4 cm.; 40 1/8 x 32 1/4 x 1 5/8 in.
Photo: Murilo Meireles

‘An important chapter of his work in the 1990s, although less known than his sculptural production, is the series of photographs M.E.D.I.T. (1994), whose acronym means “the spiritual metamorphosis of the topological unconscious”. It is a series of seven black and white images where Neto is binding up his face with nylon threads, deforming and disfiguring it. At the end, the threads are cut, leaving impressions on his skin. Even though the concepts of “corporality” and “tension” appear in some of his earlier pieces …the explicit appearance of the body as support (and the ecstatic expressions of the artist) in M.E.D.I.T. opens a different discussion on the convergence and divergence between the physical and the subjective in his work: an investigation that seeks to continually border on the limits, traversing the extremes of matter and creating experiments to inhabit others – us.’

M.A. López, ‘The Best Is Yet to Come: Vibration, Collapse, Sculpture, Neto’, in La Lengua de Ernesto (Ernesto’s Tongue), exh. cat., Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Mexico; Mexico: Faena Arts Center Buenos Aires, 2011, p. 21

Topologic fluency on a structural camp for a high density point, yeah!, 1992

copper, lead, cotton and polyamide fabric
150 x 400 x 400 cm.; 59 x 157 1/2 x 157 1/2 in.
Installation view: Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, São Paulo, 1992
Photo: Rômulo Fialdini

Copulônia, 1989–2009

nylon fabric and lead beads, 82 pieces
installation dimensions variable
Collection: Inhotim Museum, Minas Gerais
Photo: Eduardo Ortego

‘When I didn’t want to do geometrical works anymore, I was already stretching this style. I wanted to do things more organically. When I made the work with the stockings and the lead beads, I was thinking about making sculpture made of cells, and when you touch it, you get the idea of flesh. Because, you know, I’m a sculpture. I’m really a sculpture. I think through sculpture. I think the talk we are having now is a sculpture in itself.’

E. Neto in conversation with P. Simek, ‘Interview: Why Ernesto Neto Believes Nature Is More Important Than Culture’, in D Magazine, 18 May 2012

BarraBola, 1988

iron and rubber ball
140 x 10 x 5 cm.; 55 1/8 x 4 x 2 in.
Collection: Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro

‘…I was playing with the idea of the ignition of the sculpture. The sculpture exists when the bar meets the ball on the wall… it doesn’t when, for whatever reason, the work is deconstructed and all these elements are again just a ball, a bar, the floor and the wall. This was very important for me because the very process of putting elements together would give me a sensation of bringing the whole time of the planet to one moment. All things would converge to that specific point of drama.

I believe that sculpture has to do with gravity, materiality and meaning. Like in classical art, I believe that there has to exist a relation between the figure and the background and in my case, I would say that Nature is the figure and we are the background.’

E. Neto in conversation with D. Denegri, ‘Timelessness’, in MACRO/HALL: Ernesto Neto, exh. cat., Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma; Verona: Electa, 2008, p. 15

A-B-A (chapa, corda, chapa), 1987

rope and iron, 2 pieces
50 x 20 cm.; 19 3/4 x 7 7/8 in.
Photo: Gabriela Toledo

‘My work is all about relationships, one thing touching the next.

[…] Nothing is alone. Everything relates to something else at any given moment, it is a temporary thing. And when the components of one of the works fall apart, they become something different.’

E. Neto in conversation with P. Joos, ‘Conversación con Ernesto Neto / Conversation with Ernesto Neto’, in El Cuerpo Que Me Lleva / The Body that Carries Me, exh. cat., Bilbao: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2014, p. 24

All works: © Ernesto Neto 2022
Image Courtesies:
SoPolpoVit’EreticoLe, 2021: GAMeC - Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo; Cura bra cura té, 2019: Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York and Los Angeles; GaiaMotherTree, 2018: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen; Humanóides, 2001: Courtesy of Galeria Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo / Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York