FELIX GONZALEZ-TORRES (d: 1996) was an American, Cuban-born, gay visual artist born on this date. González-Torres was known for his minimal installations and sculptures in which he used materials such as strings of lightbulbs, clocks, stacks of paper, or packaged hard candies. In 1987, he joined Group Material, a New York-based group of artists whose intention was to work collaboratively, adhering to principles of cultural activism and community education. González-Torres’s 1992 piece “Untitled” (Portrait of Marcel Brient) sold for $4.6 million at Phillips de Pury & Company in 2010, a record for the artist at auction. González-Torres was born in Guaimaro, Cuba.
In 1971, he and his sister Gloria were sent to Madrid where they stayed in an orphanage until settling in Puerto Rico with relatives the same year. González-Torres graduated from the Colegio San Jorge in 1976 and began his art studies at the University of Puerto Rico while actively participating in the local art scene. He moved to New York City in 1979 with a study fellowship. The following year he participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program where his development as an artist was profoundly influenced by his introduction to critical theory. He attended the program a second time in 1983, the year he received a BFA in photography from the Pratt Institute. In 1986, González-Torres traveled to Europe and studied in Venice.
In 1987 he was awarded the degree of Master of Fine Arts by the International Center of Photography and New York University. Subsequently he taught at New York University and briefly at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. In 1992 González-Torres was granted a DAAD fellowship to work in Berlin, and in 1993 a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Best known for his cascading light bulb installations, his “candy piles” and the “Unmade bed” billboard, González-Torres died in Miami in 1996 due to AIDS-related complications.