Yi Gu

Yi Gu
Associate Professor
Telephone number
Building HW 425
Art History and Visual Culture


Yi GU is an associate professor of modern and contemporary art and visual culture, with a focus on Asia especially China. Her research interests include cold war visual culture and post-socialist art, comparative media studies, Chinese photography history and contemporary photography in Asia, politics of aesthetics, data visualization, and visual methodologies across disciplines. Her book Chinese Ways of Seeing and Open-Air Painting (Harvard University Press Asia Center, 2020) points out an ocular turn of China’s twentieth century as a foundation for a revisionist history of modern Chinese art. She is currently completing a manuscript on socialist data visualization and China's contemporary Digital Countryside initiative. She is a co-editor of open-access academic journal Trans Asia Photography and a convening member of the research project “Recalibrating Postwar Chinese Art: Digital Humanities and Alternative Archives.”




Ph.D.  2009 History of Art and Architecture, Brown University
Dissertation: “Scientising Vision in China: Photography, Outdoor Sketching, and the Reinvention of Landscape Perception, 1912-1949”
Supervisor: Professor Douglas Nickel  
M.A.  2002 Archaeology and Museum Studies, Fudan University
B.A.   1999 Chinese Literature, Fudan University




Department of East Asia Studies



Teaching Interests

Chinese art and visual culture, Asian contemporary art, Methodology of Visual Studies, Art and Market, Public Art  



Research Interests

Socialist and Post-Socialist Visual Culture, Aesthetic Capitalism, Postwar Chinese art, Mass art and amateurism, Photography in Asia




Gu, Yi. Chinese Ways of Seeing and Open-Air Painting. Harvard University Asia Center, 2020.
ISBN 9780674244443

Gu, Yi “Which East, Whose South: Reflections on Art of the Socialist Bloc.” On Our Time, no. 2 Constellations of Intimacies, 2021.
Journal article

Gu, Yi. “What’s in a Name? Photography and the Reinvention of Visual Truth in China, 1840-1911.” The Art Bulletin, vol. 95, no. 1, 2013, pp. 120–38.
Journal article

Gu, Yi. “We Love Peace: Photographic Effect and Chinese People’s Volunteer Force Soldiers in the Korean War.” The Chinese Historical Review, vol. 25, no. 2, 2018, pp. 196–207.
Journal article

Gu, Yi. “The ‘Peasant Problem’ and Time in Contemporary Chinese Art.” Representations, vol. 136, no. 1, Nov. 2016, pp. 54–76.
Journal article

Gu, Yi. “Photography and Its Chinese Origins.” Photography and Its Origins, edited by Tanya Sheehan and Andres Zervigon, Routledge, 2015, pp. 157–70.

Gu, Yi. “Powkee and the Era of Large Studios.” Portraiture and Early Studio Photography in China and Japan, edited by Roberta Wue and Luke Gartlan, Ashgate, 2017, pp. 59–76.

Gu, Yi. “Prince Chun Through the Lens.” Ars Orientalis, vol. 43, 2013, pp. 125–38.
Journal article



Public Engagement

"Magic Lantern and the Dark Matter of Mao's Art World" (2 episodes, in Chinese)
July 13 and July 19, 2021 (2 hr in total)

橫豎橫#20 | 幻燈和大眾藝術:五六十年代藝術世界中的“暗物質”
橫豎橫#21 | 幻燈和大眾藝術:五六十年代藝術世界中的“暗物質”(下)