About the Artist
Born in 1957—the son of a historian and landscape painter in Quanzhou City, Fujian Province—Cai Guo-Qiang (pronounced sigh gwo chang) developed a desire to become an artist at an early age. As a teenager, he was absorbed in the martial arts and even acted in some kung-fu movies. Educated in the traditions of Western art, Cai first encountered Western contemporary art as China entered an era of intense social change. Not able to find a school offering classes in contemporary art, he studied stage design from 1981 to 1985 at the Shanghai Drama Institute. He also experimented with gunpowder to foster spontaneity and to confront the suppression that he felt from his controlled artistic and social climate. At the end of 1986, when he moved to Japan, he began to explore the properties of gunpowder in his drawings, an inquiry that led to experimentation with explosives on a massive scale and the development of explosion events, exemplified in his renowned series Projects for Extraterrestrials.
Cai achieved international prominence while living in Japan, and his works began to be shown widely around the world. His approach draws on a wide variety of symbols, narratives, traditions, and materials, such as astrophysics, feng shui, Chinese medicine, dragons, roller coasters, computers, vending machines, and gunpowder. Among his many awards to date is the Golden Lion Prize of the 48th Venice Biennale International. Cai moved from Japan to the United States in 1995 and now lives in New York with his family.
The artist's principal projects include Tornado: Explosion Project for the Festival of China, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C., 2005; Inopportune, a four-stage exhibition presented at MASS MoCA, 2004–2005; Light Cycle, an explosion project for New York's Central Park on the occasion of its 150th anniversary, 2003; Ye Gong Hao Long: Explosion Project for Tate Modern, Tate Modern, 2003; Transient Rainbow, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2002; Flying Dragon in the Heavens, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humblebaek, Denmark, 1997; The Earth Has Its Black Hole Too, Hiroshima, Japan, 1995; and Project to Extend the Great Wall of China by 10,000 Meters, Jiayuguan City, China, 1993. He also curated the first China Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005.