Guan Yi was born in the ’60s, and like many of the artists who grew up in that area he holds pure cultural ideals. In the ’80s, he was even something of an avant-garde artist himself. The logo of the 1989 China contemporary art exhibition — the “No U-Turn” sign — hangs behind his headboard. In 1993 Guan started running a business. But still, driven by his personal philosophy and rabid passion for art, he later returned to the art world. Before that, aside from in the company of business acquaintances or family members, Guan rarely mentioned his love of art.
After returning to the art fold around 2000, Guan Yi has put no limitations on his art collection. In 2001 he established the “Guan Yi contemporary art museum,” with his collection being referred to by Westerners as “the best way to understand Chinese contemporary art.” In 2002, Guan collected his first installation work, Huang Yong Ping’s “World Factory” — a colossal 260 square meter rendering of the Chinese map made of metal bars. Between 2003-2005, Guan Yi collected a series of works by Huang that range from 1985-2005, 16 works in all. Soon, he had become Huang Yong Ping’s top collector.
…Guan Yi doesn’t only see collecting Chinese contemporary art as a hobby, but he also wants to establish a “complete history of Chinese contemporary art.” He plans at a later date to work to advance the public’s knowledge about Asian and Western contemporary art.
The biggest question Guan asks himself is how to bring contemporary art closer to the public. Could it be a museum without walls or borders? As Guan Yi said, “the biggest concern of a contemporary art collector is that they sometimes doubt the value of contemporary art culture. Because in China, the transition from traditional to contemporary art has lacked the necessary process of aesthetic education.”