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>> The Press on "The Art of Tomorrow" at Deutsche Guggenheim
>> Cai Guo-Qiang: A Chinese Art Star in New York

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Dragon Skeleton:/Suture of the Wall
True Collection, Gent, Belgium, 1996

Over the course of time, he has worked together with a number of experts from various disciplines, such as scientists, Fengshui masters, choreographers, architects like Zaha Hadid, and fashion designers like Issey Miyake . Whether he paints on walls, paper, or in the sky with his explosive art, creates bridges, dragons, black holes of light and color, or curates the Chinese Pavilion of the 51st Venice Biennial – he always undermines predetermined perceptions and confronts the visitor with the paradoxes of an increasingly globalized world.

Dream, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA - 2005

In the summer of 2006, the solo exhibition he has conceived for the Deutsche Guggenheim, titled Cai Guo-Qiang – Head On, will open in Berlin. The show features a video projection, a huge new gunpowder drawing, and a room-sized installation populated by a pack of artificial animals – 99 life-sized wolves fabricated in China from sheepskin. The visit to the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum is part of a press trip organized by Deutsche Bank Art to enable journalists to become familiar with the artist's work prior to the exhibition. We already visited Cai the day before in his studio in East Village. Behind the façade of a traditional brownstone building, we discovered a cool studio in hues of white that combines high tech with Far Eastern elements.

Transient Rainbow, New York, USA 2002l

The tour through the studio is perfectly organized. After Cai's wife and financial manager Hong Hong Wu greets the guests at the door, his assistant Lesley Ma leads us through the rooms, past the large-scale Gunpowder Drawings, which he often creates parallel to his larger projects. Using a special technique that employs gunpowder, fuses, weights, and stencils, Cai draws with the burnt, smoky marks left behind on the paper-covered wooden panels by the smoldering powder. Drawings of wild animals can be seen on the panels, which are either hung, leaned against the wall, or screwed together as screens, animals that assume a central position in Cai's recent work – hawks, crocodiles, eagles. We take a path through a small, artfully arranged garden to the office, whose walls are filled with newspaper articles, architectural shots, and images of fireworks.

A Gunpowder Drawing in Cai Guo-Qiang's studio, Photo: Maria Morais

During the final one hour-long lecture, studio director Jennifer Ma translates for Cai. Although the artist has been living in New York for a decade, he speaks exclusively Chinese. Using video footage, the two explain a selection of the breathtaking proposals he has realized in his studio since the early nineties: the Project to Extend the Great Wall of China by 10,000 Meters, for which Cai extended the world-famous structure using a burning fuse 10 kilometers in length in 1993; the multicolor, sparkling Transient Rainbow over the Hudson that celebrated the New York MoMA’s move to Queens in 2002; and Ye Gong Hao Long, the project in which he transformed the London Tate Modern and the nearby Millenium Bridge designed by Sir Norman Foster over the Thames into a sea of flames for a few seconds.

Project for Extend the Great Wall of China by 10,000 Meters:
Project for Extraterrestrials No. 10, Jiayuguan, China - 1993

In regards to his gunpowder drawings, he remarked that the artistic process resembles the act of love – a question of pressure and counter-pressure, working towards a goal, towards one exact point, while all the while one could explode at any moment. Anyone who didn't understand the statement in the studio yesterday will have a chance to experience this "act of love" live after the museum visit. Following a two hour-long bus ride, we arrive in the small town of Brookhaven on Long Island, home of the Grucci company, "America's First Family of Fireworks." Even if the rather rustic appearance of the detonation areas and corrugated iron buildings might not seem quite this way, the Gruccis are a true legend. They have created the fireworks for 6 American presidential inaugurations and three American Olympics. Cai has been working with them for years and creates his works on their premises.

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