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Repeating Explosions : Cai Guo-Qiang Amazing Art 2020

| November 9, 2020 | 0 Comments
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How can an exhibition be in two museums at once? We’re not talking about a digital piece or a film, but actual sculptures. If you’re an artist such as Cai Guo-Qiang, just make a copy. This is exactly what he did for his Inopportune: Stage One exhibit at the Guggenheim in New York. Well, I guess not exactly.

Repeating Explosions : Cai Guo-Qiang Amazing Art

Interestingly enough, the work occupying the circular atrium of the Guggenheim is marketed and presented as if it is the actual exhibit showcased at the Seattle Art Museum. However, if we really read the credits of the work, which are sparse and seemingly covert, we will find the words “exhibition copy”. If the piece is not the actual work, why disguise it as such?

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One major variation is in the actual exhibition design. This is started from the interior layout of the Seattle Art Museum and how it is much different than that of the Guggenheim. Whereas both share the high ceilings which allow for the exhibits placement, one covers a vast horizontal plane and the other circles a narrower vertical space. Although there is this main difference, it is easy to see why the copy can pass as the original.

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Understandably the concept behind Inopportune was kept constant, thus allowing for the same title. Both include nine identical white cars with light tubes of various lengths and colors emitted that are suspended in air. The frozen steps of the explosion occur in both and are shown in a continuous loop. This loop is also featured in the accompanying film, entitled Illusion which was also created by Cai.

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Inopportune actually started at the MASS MoCA in 2004, traveled to National Gallery of Canada in 2006, and then found a semi-permanent home in the SAM in 2007. Now it is currently housed in both the SAM and in the Guggenheim with his current exhibition “Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe” from February 22nd through May 28th . The piece showcases a car exploding that can be seen tumbling through nine frames of time with hundreds of lights bursting from the vehicle.

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Cai has become known for his artistic explosions. In his youth, he explored the properties of gunpowder in his drawings. This later led to experiments with larger scale explosions and other events. One of his most famous explosion projects was “Transient Rainbow”. He was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York after September 11 to complete the project, which was an arch of fireworks that jumped over the East River from Manhattan to Queens. This and his other projects demonstrate his belief that explosions aren’t always negative. They can be constructive, beautiful and healing and created at various significant occasions such as weddings and holidays. Inopportune: Stage One is Cai’s statement on car bombs and communicates his intimate encounter with terrorism.

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Currently Cai is a member of a team of artists for the Beijing Olympics in which his work will be seen in the opening and closing ceremonies. His mid-career retrospective is on exhibit at MoMA in New York and is scheduled to travel to the National Art Museum in China and the Guggenheim Bilbao.

He was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York after September 11 to complete the project, which was an arch of fireworks that jumped over the East River from Manhattan to Queens. 

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