Federico Herrero

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Federico Herrero
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Born1978 (age 45–46)
San José, Costa Rica
NationalityCosta Rican
CitizenshipCosta Rica
Alma materPratt Institute
OccupationContemporary artist
  • Golden Lion for Young Artists
  • Venice Biennale 2001

Federico Herrero is a contemporary artist born in 1978, living and working in San José. He is known for working in the medium of painting. He was discovered at the age of 22 at the 2001 Venice Biennale, where he won the Golden Lion for a young artist. He was invited by Harald Szeemann.

Early life and education

Federico Herrero started making paintings at a very early age until he entered Pratt Institute, where he developed many artistic experiments at his home and dorm room.

It was in his mid-teens when he began looking into art history books found at his grandmother's place: these books provided a sense of history and a place of belonging in him, and he immediately felt compelled by the modernist period.

In 1997, he enrolled in the Fine Arts Program at Pratt Institute in New York. His stay in New York broadened Herrero’s artistic influences. After three semesters, Herrero decided to move back to San José, never graduating from art school. During his time in New York, Herrero developed an affinity with the work and speciality in the process of the work by Roberto Matta. Simultaneously, during those years Virginia Pérez-Ratton was opening Teorética, an upcoming institution for contemporary art in Costa Rica. Herrero met Pérez-Ratton upon his return to San José, presenting his work to her, which would develop a very strong relationship over the upcoming years until her sudden passing away. Teorética would become the most important contemporary art center and voice in the Central American region in the next decade.


Hans Ulrich Obrist, jury member of the 2001 Venice Biennale stated how “Herrero made a name for himself at the 2001 Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art with a wall painting made in the Arsenale; it was difficult to tell whether the work had been meticulously constructed or totally improvised.”[1] Since then, Herrero has explored painting through murals, architectural installations, and large format painting, making him one of the most recognized Latin American artists of the 21st century.

Herrero had his first solo exhibition in August 2000, at Galería Jacobo Carpio, followed by his showing at Venice Biennale at 22 years old. He also exhibited at Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris with Obrist. After a residency in Tokyo in 2004, Herrero worked with the Gallery Koyanagi for a period of time. Since then, he has shown widely around the world without ever moving out of Costa Rica. His works belong to the collections like the Museo Reina Sofia, Tate Modern, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 21st Century Art Museum, Kanazawa, Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, MUDAM, Luxemburg, MUSAC, Castilia y León, MUAC, Mexico DF, Santander Museum, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, CIFO Ella Fontanels-Cisneros Collection, Towada Arts Center, Aichi Prefecture Japan. Herrero is currently represented by James Cohan Gallery, Galeria Luisa Strina and Sies + Hoeke.

Curator and theorist Paulo Herkenhoff mentions in his text “Federico Herrero: Painting as Critical Actions", the idiosyncratic occupation of Herrero’s work around his surroundings. He states: “Federico Herrero’s painting is an anti-entropic rendition. The painter performs exactly where architecture fails."[2]

Harald Szeemann and Venice Biennale

On 2000, just a few months after his solo show, Harald Szeemann arrived in San Jose searching for new artists to include in the 2001 Venice Biennale. After much scouting, Szeemann included works by Herrero, Priscilla Monge, and Aníbal Lopez, Jaime Tischler, and Regina Jose Galindo. Consequently, during his time in Venice, Herrero meet gallerist Juana de Aizpuru. She would later on represent Herrero during the early years of his career.

Selected exhibitions

Venice Biennale 2001

Following Szeemann’s selection of Herrero’s work for the 49th Venice Biennale, the artist painted a mural in the Arsenale which blended with the torn down façade of the 17th century building. The landscape depicted colorful figures and shapes alluding to plants or objects. Untitled Wall Painting (2001)—in conversation with the ‘Plateaus of Humankind’ theme of the Biennale—juxtaposed the exuberant colors and shapes with the neglected, derelict area of the premises. For the Central Pavilion, Herrero showed a suite of paintings which alluded to his early experimentations of his now recognized aesthetic format of color blocking. He would proceed to win the Young artist awards for his work in the large-scale exhibition.

La Bienal de la Habana, 2003

Herrero’s public intervention in Cuba, Mapa Mundi, 2003, entailed the artist painting an oversized map of the world at the bottom of the public pool, which belonged to the Communist association of the island. The pool was later filled up and people were allowed to swim in it, interacting with the all-encompassing element of water and Herrero’s aquatic yet universal vision of the world.

Under the Same Sun, 2014

Launched in 2014, The Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative in collaboration with curator Pablo Leon de la Barra, organized a survey exhibition focusing predominantly on work made by artists born after 1968, and also includes several early pioneers who were first active internationally in the 1960s and ’70s. Under the Same Sun features more than 45 works in a variety of mediums including, painting, installation, performance, photography, sculpture, and video. Herrero’s monumental painting, Pan de Azucar, 2014, took a center stage in the exhibition, referencing obliquely to Rio de Janeiro’s tumultuous and dark past.

South London Gallery, Pelican State, 2016

In preparation for the South London Gallery’s presentation the Guggenheim’s Under the Same Sun exhibition, the gallery invited Herrero to create a site-specific work in its premises. Herrero was much more interested in creating a mural which was connected to an experience rather than a decorative piece, hence he decided to intervene the Pelican Estate’s playground. His involvement and colorful appropriation of the playground would lead to a social and artistic activation of the space and community surrounding the playground.

MCA Chicago, 2018

Herrero’s Alphabet, 2018 was a site-specific work covering most of the second floor of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Following his vision of painting as an open-ended landscape, the work at MCA defied the verticality of a canvas and also covered floors, windows, and ceilings. The installation offered an immersive experience to the viewer, as the stained-glass windows embraced the mural and vice versa.


Hippolyte, Lea, Art Premium Magazine, Federico Herrero and the Truthfulness of Colors, Winter 2020, 36-41.

Federico Herrero, Kettler Verlag & Sies + Höke. 2017[3]

Levin, Kim. Under the same sun at the Guggenheim, ARTnews, Set 2014.

Sharp, Chris. Federico Herrero Artforum (Chris Sharp), May 2014.

Murillo, Rosangel, Federico Herrero: The color as estelar, Latin American Art Journal, Apr 2014.

Herkenhoff, Paulo and Felicity Lunn. Federico Herrero, Kunstverein Freiburg, 2008.[4]

Auerbach, Ruth. “Federico Herrero”, 49. Biennale di Venezia. Plateu of Humankind, curated by Harald Szeemann, Venecia, 2001, p. 292 - 293

Diaz Bringas, Tamara. “Ciudad (in)visible”, exhibition catalog, Publicaciones TEOR/éTica No.17, San José, 2002

Lange, Julia. “Federico Herrero”, Sammlung Melitta, Dusseldorf, 2003, p.23

Obrist, Hans-Ulrich. “Federico Herrero”, Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting, Phaidon, 2002, p. 144-147[5]

Pérez-Ratton, Virginia. “L´urgence de peindre: Federico Herrero”, Urgent Painting, Musée D´Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, París, 2002, pp. 110 - 115


  1. Obrist, Hans Ulrich (2015), "Biennalen", Kuratieren!, Verlag C.H.BECK oHG, pp. 147–151, ISBN 978-3-406-67365-8, retrieved 2020-06-18
  2. Lunn, Felicity, "Alice – in der Ausstellung", Alice im Spiegelland, Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, ISBN 978-3-8394-2082-9, retrieved 2020-06-18
  3. Herrero, Federico (2017). Federico Herrero. Dusseldorf, Germany: Kettler Verlag & Sies + Hoek.
  4. Herkenhoff, Paulo (2008). Federico Herrero. Freiburg, Germany: Kunstverein Freiburg.
  5. Ulrich Obrist, Hans (2002). Vitamin P. New perspectives in painting. New York, London: Phaidon.

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