Born in 1957 in Guaimaro, Cuba, Felix Gonzalez-Torres fled to Madrid in 1970 and moved to Puerto Rico, where he grew up. In 1979, the artist emigrated to New York City, where he received his BFA and MA in photography from the Pratt Institute of Art in 1983 and NYU's International Center of Photography in 1987. In the same year, Gonzalez-Torres joined the artists' collective Group Material and held his first solo exhibition in 1988. In 1992, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, invited Gonzalez-Torres to participate in its Billboard Projects series, followed by a series of solo exhibitions at major art institutions including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. During his lifetime, Gonzalez-Torres participated in over 100 group exhibitions, including the Whitney Biennial (1991), the Venice Biennale (1993), and a touring retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York that proceeded to Spain and Paris.

Even after his early death at age 38 in 1996, Gonzalez-Torres has been included in over 500 exhibitions worldwide, establishing him as one of the most influential artists in contemporary art. In 2007, Gonzalez-Torres became only the second artist to posthumously represent the United States in the history of the Venice Biennale. In 2010-2011, his major traveling exhibition Specific Objects without Specific Form toured across Europe, and the 2011 Istanbul Biennale was held in honor of his artistic achievements.