Friday, January 18, 2008


Cai Guo-Qiang is one of the most prominent living Chinese artists. Trained in theatre design, in 1999 he won the International Prize at the 48th Venice Biennale. He is best known for his firework-based set-piece installations and for drawings made using ink and gunpowder. In November, a set of 14 untitled drawings by the artist sold at Christie’s, Hong Kong, for £9.5m ($19.1m)—setting a new record for a Chinese contemporary artist at auction. Next month the Guggenheim in New York, will host Cai’s first major retrospective, “I Want to Believe”. The show will coincide with the publication of a limited edition, potentially self-combusting book (nine copies only) entitled Danger Book: Suicide Fireworks, published by Ivory Press and personally annotated by the artist. Cai is currently also serving as artistic director of visual and special effects for the Beijing Olympics this summer alongside film-makers Steven Spielberg and Zhang Yimou who are artistic consultants. His compatriot, artist Ai Weiwei who collaborated on the design of the Olympic “bird’s nest” stadium in Beijing with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, has now disassociated himself from the event, referring to China’s “disgusting” political conditions. Cai declined to answer our questions about Ai Weiwei’s statement or the growing international lobby for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics in protest at the human rights abuses within China and the regime’s support for the Sudanese government.