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Art Basel HK / CAI Guo-Qiang Solo Exhibition

Taroko Gorge (Detail), 2009, Gunpowder on Paper, Mounted on 2 nine-Panel Folding Screens, 250 x 1800 cm

In Art Basel Hong Kong 2017, ESLITE GALLERY dedicates an entire booth to nine gunpowder works in various forms by CAI Guo-Qiang (1957-) that span the last two decades. Unprecedentedly, this is the artist’s first solo show in an art fair. The exhibition is centered around a monumental gunpowder drawing on folding screens that stretches 18 meters long. Entitled Taroko Gorge, it was originally produced for his retrospective, “Cai Guo-Qiang: Hanging Out in the Museum” at Taipei Fine Arts Museum in 2009. The work recreates CAI’s impression of the awe-inspiring canyons in the namesake place in eastern Taiwan and recalls the form and imagery of Chinese scholar painting. Like Taroko Gorge, Dragon Cypress documents the artist’s same enthrallment of everlasting nature. Black Peony is a gunpowder on porcelain work tracing its roots back to Cai’s black fireworks and black rainbow period. During his survey trip to Jiangxi Province, China, while working on the Olympics project, he was fascinated by the exquisite craftsmanship in locally made porcelains and thus was inspired to make this work. He ordered a set of porcelain peony from the famous porcelain town Jingde Town in Jiangxi Province and then using gunpowder, he turned each peony into a work of art that fuses fragility with explosive energy. Another exhibit is Danger Book: Suicide Fireworks commissioned by London’s Ivory Press. The artist mixed gunpowder with paste to make 13 drawings in the 50-page book and placed a bundle of matches on a striking strip along the base of the book’s spine. A dangling string was attached to the bundle of matches to entice the reader to pull on it and ignite the book. When explaining his concept, Cai said, “Be careful of books. Be careful with books. Be careful or one can become a weapon-wielder. Be careful or one can become the victim.”

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