The Artsy Vanguard 2020: Guo Fengyi
B. 1942, Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, China. D. 2010, Xi’an.
Installation view of “Guo Fengyi,” 2020 at Gladstone Gallery, New York. Photo by David Regen. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.
The late Guo Fengyi’s mesmerizing works were long considered those of an “outsider artist.” As a self-taught former chemical analyst whose drawings centered largely on spirituality and mysticism, Guo fit the bill for an art-world outsider. Her colored ink drawings—which she only started making in her mid-forties as an extension of her meditative practice of qi gong—are phantasmagoric and often inscrutable. Such pieces are filled with flowing figuration and complex symbology, touching on everything from Buddhism and the I Ching to cosmology and acupuncture charts. Many works take the form of massive vertical scrolls—some nearly 30 feet tall—in which vivid forms seem to spiral off into diagrams, landscapes, and renderings of interior worlds.
Over the past few years, the moniker of “outsider” has proven less than apt. Overlooked for much of her life, Guo started gaining recognition in the years leading up to her death in 2010, becoming well known in her home country of China after Beijing’s Long March Space began showing her work in 2005.
Guo Fengyi, detail of Laojun (Elderly Lord), 2007. © Guo Fengyi. Photo by David Regen. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.
Guo Fengyi, detail of Lugu Lake – Kunming, 2002. © Guo Fengyi. Photo by David Regen. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.
In the wake of recent critical reconsiderations of artists such as Hilma af Klint, Guo’s scrolls have settled somewhere closer to the center of the international art world’s attention: Gladstone Gallery began representing her estate in 2018 and has since put on two shows of her work at its Brussels and New York spaces, while 2020 saw her first major New York institutional show at the Drawing Center. It’s a testament to Guo’s uncompromising vision that her drawings have drifted, as vivid and cloistered as ever, out of the periphery and into the slipstream of the contemporary.
The Artsy Vanguard 2020
The Artsy Vanguard 2020 is our annual list of the most promising artists shaping the future of contemporary art. This year, artists are organized into two categories: Newly Emerging, which presents artists who’ve gained momentum in the past year, showing at leading institutions and galleries; and Getting Their Due, which identifies artists who have persevered for decades, yet only recently received the spotlight they deserve. Now in its third edition, the feature was developed by the Artsy staff, in collaboration with our network of international curators and art professionals. Explore more of The Artsy Vanguard 2020.
Header and thumbnail image, from left to right: Installation view of “Guo Fengyi,” 2020 at Gladstone Gallery, New York. Photo by David Regen. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels; Guo Fengyi, detail of “Lugu Lake – Kunming,” 2002. © Guo Fengyi. Photo by David Regen. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels; Portrait of Guo Fengyi. Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery And Long March Space; Installation view of “Guo Fengyi: To See From a Distance,” 2020 at The Drawing Center, New York. Photo by Martin Parsekian.