By Artsy Editors
In the past few years, the art world has begun to more graciously reward artists who have honed their practice over previous decades, while remaining inexplicably under-the-radar. Artists like these 10 members of The Artsy Vanguard—a new, annual list of the 50 most influential talents shaping the future of contemporary art practice—are finally getting their due, with museum retrospectives, representation by major international galleries, and surging collector interest.
B. 1948, Santiago, Chile. Lives and works in New York.
Cecilia Vicuña, known as a poet as well as an artist, handily destroys the boundaries between language and sculpture. Many of her works build on the notion of quipu (the knotted strings used as a form of writing in pre-Columbian Peru).
One recent sculpture in this mode, Quipu Womb (The Story of the Red Thread, Athens) (2017), was a standout at last year’s Documenta 14, its thick knotted ropes of scarlet wool hanging down a dramatic 26 feet. Also included in the German quinquennial—considered among the most important iterative exhibitions of contemporary art globally—were the artist’s paintings and site-specific performances, which took place both in Documenta’s traditional home of Kassel, as well as the half of the show that curator Adam Szymczyk mounted in Athens. For one such performance, a ritual marking the end of the Greek portion of the exhibition, Vicuña traveled to the coast and “sacrificed” the ropes of wool used in her installation to the Hellenic gods of the sea.
“Vicuña is a seasoned artist who weaves together threads of language, sculpture, and performance,” says Hendrik Folkerts, a curator at Documenta 14. “Her long and persistent commitment to how we shape and experience history and the body is something I deeply admire.”
Vicuña’s prominent inclusion at the quinquennial marked an important and increasingly visible moment in her career. Previously unrepresented in New York, the artist was added to Lehmann Maupin’s roster earlier this year, where she joins household names like David Salle and Gilbert & George. The artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery will open in May, showcasing a wide range of work made between 1969 and 2017. In 2018, two major institutions are joining together to present a dual exhibition, “Quipu Desaparecido (Disappeared Quipu),” which brings together the artist’s quipu pieces with sound and video elements. One installment will launch at the Brooklyn Museum in May; a second, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will open in October.