Public Program

Artist Talk: What I have been up to? – A talk with Cai Guo-Qiang

2014.07.10 4pm

Artist Talk: What I have been up to? – A talk with Cai Guo-Qiang

Art Sonje Center hosts a talk program by Cai Guo-Qiang, an internationally renowned Chinese artist. Cai Guo-Qiang will introduce his creations across four major mediums: gunpowder drawings; explosion events; installations; and social projects, wherein the artist works with local communities to create an art event or exhibition site; followed by his various educational and social events, including his charity causes. Finally, he will give a presentation of the <East Asia Art Island for Children>.

In this first official encounter with the Korean public, the artist will introduce not only his artworks, but also his educational and artistic experiences generated through various projects including the Art Island for peace.

Cai Guo-Qiang

Born in 1957 in Quanzhou City, Fujian Province, China, Cai Guo-Qiang studied stage design at the Shanghai Theater Academy. Upon graduation, he went to Japan to pursue further studies in Integrated Arts at the University of Tsukuba. He has lived and worked in New York since relocating to the U.S. in 1995.

A unique, award-winning art language

Cai Guo-Qiang’s work crosses multiple media within art, including drawing, installation, video, and performance. Drawing upon Eastern philosophy and contemporary social issues as a conceptual basis, his works aim to establish an exchange between viewers and the larger universe around them, using a site-specific approach to culture and history. His preoccupation with large-scale installation works and energetic and explosive artistic media requires his art to move beyond the flat plane into free space, and out of the interior into society and the natural world. His art can be experienced simultaneously—not only by one person or a few people—but by thousands; and indeed, by millions. In 2008, his retrospective exhibition at the Solomon R. Gugghenheim Museum in New York attracted over 350,000 visitors, which broke the museum’s attendance records for a visual artist’s solo exhibition at the time. That same year, he was the Director of Visual and Special Effects for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

In 1999, Cai was awarded the Golden Lion at the 48th Venice Biennale for his installation work Rent Collection Courtyard. In 2007, his large-scale outdoor explosion projects and innovative daytime pyrotechnic explosion events earned him the Hiroshima Art Prize, in recognition of his contributions to peace through the use of gunpowder.

By transforming gunpowder and using it to create beauty, Cai Guo-Qiang’s unique use of the volatile medium in large-scale drawings and “explosion events” detaches it from the usual associations with war, violence, and conflict. In 2012, he was the recipient of the Praemium Imperiale for his achievements in painting; the prestigious award recognizes lifetime achievement in the arts in categories not covered by the Nobel Prize. Additionally, he was among the five artists honored by then-Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton with the first United States Department of State Medal of Arts award for his outstanding commitment to international cultural exchange.

Working in collaboration with different cultures of the world to promote art education

Over the past thirty years, Cai Guo-Qiang’s art projects have taken him all over the world. In 2011, his solo exhibition Cai Guo-Qiang—1040M Underground at IZOLYATSIA. Platform for Cultural Initiatives, led him to Donetsk, Ukraine. In the same year, he went to Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar, for Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab. Since 2000, his Everything is Museum curatorial series has converted unexpected spaces into small-scale exhibition venues for rural communities and small towns in different parts of the world. This series includes: the Dragon Museum of Contemporary Art (DMoCA, 2000) in Tsunan Mountain Park, Niigata Prefecture, Japan; Under Museum of Contemporary Art (UMoCA, 2001) in Colle di Val d’Elsa, Tuscany, Italy; Bunker Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA, 2004) on Kinmen Island, Taiwan; and Snake Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA, 2013) in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.

Cai Guo-Qiang has also used unique social art projects to respond to issues in children’s education. In 1999, for his project Salute, juvenile delinquents in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, designed and made their own cannons, firing them at the opening of the exhibition. The project enabled the children to understand their potential to contribute to society and helped them build their confidence. For Man, Eagle, and Eye in the Sky (2003) in Siwa, Egypt, Cai worked with over 600 students from over forty schools to make and paint kites by hand, helping these students unleash their creativity. Since then, every year in late autumn, the community has organized a kite festival to commemorate the project. More recently in 2013, Cai worked with underprivileged children from the favelas of Rio to paint and fly kites with LED lights for Kites in the Night Sky. At dusk, hundreds of kites hovered in the sky, floating above rows upon rows of favela houses and bustling affluent neighborhoods nearby. Also in the same year, Cai and the people of Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, initiated the Project to Plant Ten Thousand Cherry Blossom Trees at the Snake Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA). As part of the artist’s conceptual series Everything is Museum, SMoCA is a community effort. Local residents and volunteers helped build a 150-meter long winding corridor using timber contaminated by radiation from nuclear disaster that followed the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake. The museum winds through hills on which 10,000 cherry trees have been planted; SMoCA has since become a space where Iwaki families bond with their children.

2014.07.10 4pm
Cai Guo-Qiang
Hosted by
Organized by
Art Sonje Center|Space for contemporary art Co., Ltd.