Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab

Past Exhibition

Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab showcases Cai’s diverse body of work, ranging from his signature gunpowder drawings to large-scale site-specific installations and the explosion event of Black Ceremony.

Share with a friend

Cai Guo-Qiang’s biggest exhibition since I Want To Believe at the Guggenheim Museum in 2008, Saraab (“mirage”) will feature more than fifty works, including sixteen newly commissioned pieces, thirty recent works and nine documentary videos.

Saraab continues Mathaf’s commitment to present an Arab perspective on modern and contemporary art as it turns eastward to consider dynamics across Asia for the first time. Works on view explore the historic and contemporary iconography of the Arabian Gulf and its seafaring culture, as well as the Islamic history of Quanzhou. They also address the ambiguity of Qatar and China’s relationships to one another, and Cai’s own creative development over a lifetime. In keeping with its title, Saraab questions whether there is something illusory or unobtainable about the process of cultural, temporal and geographic translation.

The Artist

Cai Guo-Qiang was born in 1957 in Quanzhou, Fujian Province, China, and was trained in stage design at the Shanghai Theater Academy. His work has since crossed multiple mediums within art, including drawing, installation, video and performance art.

While living in Japan from 1986 to 1995, he explored the properties of gunpowder in his drawings, an inquiry that eventually led to his experimentation with explosives on a massive scale and to the development of his signature explosion events. Drawing upon Eastern philosophy and contemporary social issues as a conceptual basis, these projects and events aim to establish an exchange between viewers and the larger universe around them, utilizing a site-specific approach to culture and history.

Cai was awarded the Golden Lion at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, the 7th Hiroshima Art Prize in 2007, and the 20th Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 2009. He was Director of Visual and Special Effects for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. In 2008, he was the subject of a retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. In fall 2010, Cai created Odyssey for the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Installed as part of the museum‘s ongoing Portal Project, it is one of his largest gunpowder drawings to date. He currently lives and works in New York.

Gunpowder Drawing Project

On 22-26 October, with the help of nearly 200 local volunteers, Cai Guo Qiang produced large-scale gunpowder drawings for Saraab. The works trace the maritime route from ancient Arabia to Quanzhou and echo the botanical patterns seen in Islamic decorative art. The entire creative process was open to the public.