Cai Guo-Qiang

Behind the scene: Transient Eternity—101 Ignitions of Gunpowder Paintings

Cai Guo-Qiang (b. 1957, Quanzhou, China) was trained in stage design at the Shanghai Theatre Academy, and his work has since crossed multiple mediums within art including drawing, installation, video, and performance.

Cai began to experiment with gunpowder in his hometown Quanzhou. He continued exploring its properties while living in Japan from 1986 to 1995, which led to his signature outdoor explosion events. Drawing upon his sentiments toward the cosmos, Eastern philosophy, and contemporary social issues as a conceptual basis, his artworks, which are often site-specific, respond to culture and history to establish an exchange between viewers and the larger time-space around them. His explosion art and installations are imbued with a force that transcends the two-dimensional plane to engage with society and nature.

Cai was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 1999, the Hiroshima Art Prize in 2007, and the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 2009. In 2012, he was honored as a Laureate for the prestigious Praemium Imperiale, which recognizes lifetime achievement in the arts across categories not covered by the Nobel Prize. The same year, he was named as one of the five artists to receive the first U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts for his outstanding commitment to international cultural exchange. His recent honors include the Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation Award in 2015, the Bonnefanten Award for Contemporary Art (BACA), the Japan Foundation Awards, and the Asia Arts Award Honoree in 2016, and the 2020 Isamu Noguchi Award. Cai also served as Director of Visual and Special Effects for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

My work is like a dialogue between me and unseen powers, like alchemy.

- Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai's many solo exhibitions and projects over the past three decades include Cai Guo-Qiang on the Roof: Transparent Monument at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2006 and his retrospective I Want to Believe at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York in 2008. Cai Guo-Qiang: Peasant da Vincis toured to three cities in Brazil in 2013, attracting over one million visitors. The Rio de Janeiro iteration became the most visited exhibition by a living artist worldwide that year. In June 2015, Cai created the explosion event Sky Ladder in his hometown Quanzhou. The artwork became the centerpiece of the Netflix documentary Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang, directed by Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald.

He currently lives and works in New York.

Cai Guo-Qiang: Exploding Black Daisy, documentary video, 2021. Directed by Shanshan Xia, produced by 33 Studio

TRLab Notes

Cai Guo-Qiang is an internally acclaimed artist who isn't afraid to ask questions, to explore, and push boundaries. Consistently groundbreaking and exciting, Cai's work inspires us to reflect on humanity and our own natures. We're proud to partner with him to bring his one-of-a-kind NFTs to life.

Artworks By Cai Guo-Qiang