Cai Guo-Qiang

What do you know about the art of blowing things up? Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang has been doing it for fifty years…

I do get somewhat nervous, but in the moment of ignition it seems to go beyond nerves.

In Chinese tradition, fireworks evoke celebration, but they also evoke the violence and protest of Cai’s upbringing during the Cultural Revolution. In 2008, he was criticised for working with the Chinese government on the Olympic Opening Ceremony. A few years later he started work on one of his childhood dreams, a 500-metre ladder reaching into the sky. 

Painting made with gunpowder of crocodile biting into a sphere representing the sun

Crocodile and Sun, 2007

Painting made with gunpowder of an abstract scene of a tiger and another figure

Tigers with Arrows, 2005

“Early work has begun on the largest single installation ever commissioned. I want to connect the earth to the universe.”

Cai is an artist who’s genuinely changed the shape of art history – he’s an Old Master of our time.

My work is sometimes like the poppy flower. It has this almost romantic side, but yet it also represents a poison.

Photograph of an illuminated 500m ladder reading up into the sky at dusk

Sky Ladder, 2015

Photograph of abandoned building in the desert with a man releasing a cloud of smoke next to it

The Century with Mushroom Clouds: Project for the 20th Century (Nevada Test Site), 1996

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