Archive for October, 2016

Cai Guo-Qiang Honored At The 2016 Japan Foundation Awards


Left to right: Hiroyasu Ando (President of the Japan Foundation), Cai Guo-Qiang and his wife Hong Hong Wu. Photo courtesy of Cai Qiongzhu

On October 18, Cai Guo-Qiang received the 2016 Japan Foundation Award in Tokyo, becoming the second artist after Ikuo Hirayama (1930 – 2009) to be honored with this award. Hundreds of distinguished guests attended the ceremony, including diplomats from 60 countries and 25 members of the Japanese House of Councilors. This year the Japan Foundation Award was also presented to Professor Susan J. Pharr (Edwin O. Reischauer Professor of Japanese Politics and Director, Program on U.S.—Japan Relations, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University) and to the institution Centro Brasileiro de Língua Japonesa (CBLJ) in Brazil.

The annual Japan Foundation Awards were created in 1973 by the Japan Foundation, an independent administrative institution under the supervision of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. With a 44-year history, the Awards comprise of a grant of 3 million yen. Over the years, they have been given to individuals as well as organizations that cultivate a mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and the world through academic, artistic, and other cultural endeavors. Previous notable Japanese recipients include Akira Kurosawa (1982), Seiji Ozawa (1988), Hayao Miyazaki (2005), and Haruki Murakami (2012).

The Japan Foundation devotes its attention to artists who contribute to promoting cultural exchange between Japan and other countries. On this occasion, the Foundation is recognizing Cai’s artistic practice around the globe, through which he creates works that integrate Eastern worldviews in dialogue with various regions including the Middle East and South America. Cai has always had a prominent presence in Japan. Since the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, he has sponsored the Iwaki Manbon Sakura Project. In 2015, his large-scale solo exhibition There and Back Again opened at the Yokohama Museum of Art, and more recently in March 2016, he initiated an collaborative project in which he invited craftsmen to build a wooden boat in the pond in front of Todaiji Temple in Nara, alluding to the possibility of Japan and China “sailing” with each other’s support. The Japan Foundation not only recognizes the artist’s efforts in connecting different regions and civilizations, but also honors his contribution to consolidating a global culture that transcends national boundaries and artistic practices.


Cai Guo-Qiang speaking at the award ceremony. Photo courtesy of He Yilan.

The President of the Japan Foundation Hiroyasu Ando presented the Awards and the Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua attended the ceremony. In his reception speech, Cai stated:

“Every visit to Japan is a chance for me to think about the East, about Asia. In particular, the philosophical and artistic methodologies I’ve created with friends in Japan—methodologies that are multifaceted, harmonious, and coexist with nature in an East Asian context—have allowed me to move freely within different cultures, and create art in collaboration with different people.

I remember phoning Japanese costume designer Eiko Ishioka, inviting her to act as the director of costume design for the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony…To reassure her, I arranged for her office to be next to mine, so she only had to knock on the wall and I would be right over. I also asked my daughter, who speaks Japanese, to be her assistant, helping her out with her stay in China. The collaboration between Eiko Ishioka and the Chinese artists created the tremendous success of the Olympic opening ceremony.

A few years later, she passed away from an illness. Her husband told me that, in her final days, she had a picture of the ceremony director Zhang Yimou and myself up on the wall next to her bed.

Stories like the one I shared with Eiko Ishioka, as well as my experiences in Japan and throughout the world, all serve to prove how exchanges between individuals and cultures can transcend history, overcome political strife, and build a little bit of hope for the future.”


Left to right: Hiroyasu Ando (President of the Japan Foundation), Hong Hong Wu, Cai Guo-Qiang, and Cheng Yonghua (Chinese Ambassador to Japan). Photo courtesy of He Yilan.


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My Stories Of Painting Opening In The Netherlands


Cai Guo-Qiang, Boy’s Doodle: Drawing for the 25th Anniversary of the EU in Maastricht, 2016. Gunpowder on paper, 138 x 214 cm

Cai Guo-Qiang: My Stories of Painting
September 29 2016: Exhibition Opening and Presentation of the Bonnefanten Award 2016

Maastricht 23.08.2016 – On 29 September, the Bonnefanten Award for Contemporary Art 2016 (BACA) will be presented to Cai Guo-Qiang (1957, Quanzhou, Fujian, China). The BACA is the most important award for international visual art presented in the Netherlands, and it is awarded every two years since 2000. Consisting of a sum of 50,000 Euros, a publication and a solo exhibition, the Award is a tribute to a living non-Western artist with an exceptional oeuvre and a demonstrable influence on other artists, exhibition makers and art professionals. The Bonnefantenmuseum is presenting Cai Guo-Qiang’s first solo exhibition in the Netherlands: My Stories of Painting  (30.09.2016 – 01.05.2017)


Left: Cai Guo-Qiang, Self-Portriat, 1983. Oil on canvas, 40 x 31 cm. Photo courtesy of Cai Studio. Right: Cai Guo-Qiang with Ascending Dragon: Project for Extraterrestrials No. 2, Japan, 1989. Photo courtesy of Cai Studio

Cai Guo-Qiang: My Stories of Painting

My Stories of Painting is the first exhibition that will focus on Cai’s long journey of painting in terms of two parallel paths. The first traces his restless exploration in painting by presenting over a hundred works of various periods, scales and mediums — many of which are shown for the first time. The exhibition begins with his time in China: watercolours and oil paintings, school assignments, experimental paintings, and oil paintings with gunpowder; followed by his time in Japan: paintings created only with gunpowder, and gunpowder drawings for explosion events; it then moves on to his time in New York and the global stage — works reflecting his unique challenge to the issue of painting through his consistent artistic methodology, including recent pieces following his return to creating independent gunpowder paintings. Evolving from black gunpowder to color gunpowder, this new stage registers the artist’s unrestrained pursuit of his childhood dream to become a painter as well as his confrontation with the integral challenges of contemporary painting.

The second path is that of his family: his grandmother, parents, wife, and daughters. Through their paintings, photography, and other works, viewers can see how generation after generation, the artist’s family accompanies and mutually influences Cai. In addition to the exhibition’s scholarly consideration of the artist’s paintings, the viewers will experience the intimate and arduous sides of a painter’s journey. Crossing the boundaries between cultures, the exhibition will resonate widely with audiences, and will be an important milestone in Cai’s decades-long exploration of painting.


Top: Cai Guo-Qiang’s father teaching his grandmother calligraphy, Quanzhou, date unknown; Cai Ruiqin (Father), Untitled (Matchbox Drawings), date unknown. Ink, pen, and pencil on cardboard matchboxes, dimensions variable; Painting of Ci-En Temple where Cai Guo-Qiang’s mother would go to pray. Photo by Ron Amstutz, courtesy of Cai Studio*Bottom: Hong Hong Wu (Wife), Sea Breeze, date unknown. Oil on canvas, 33 x 46 cm; Wenhao Cai (Younger Daughter), Wenhao’s Dream: Creative Sketches for Shanghai Disney Resort, 2015. Set of 26 drawings; oil pastel on paper; each 21.6 x 27.9 cm; Wen-You Cai (Elder Daughter), With the Whole Family, in Preparation of Burning Grandfather’s Paper House for his Afterlife, 2016. C-print; 40.6 x 61 cm. Quanzhou, China.
*All other photos Courtesy of Cai Studio.


Cai Guo-Qiang, Poppy Series: Hallucination No.1, 2015. Gunpowder on canvas,183 x 608 cm. Private Collection.


Cai Guo-Qiang: My Stories of Painting will be accompanied by a catalogue of the same title, available in English and Dutch published by Walther König Publisher. It includes essays by Cai Guo-Qiang, Bonnefantenmuseum director Stijn Huijts, as well as the former director M+ museum in Hong Kong, Lars Nittve.

Bonnefanten Award for Contemporary Art (BACA) 2016

In presenting the exhibition and publication by BACA laureate Cai Guo-Qiang, the Bonnefantenmuseum is once again drawing attention to an exceptional and influential oeuvre within contemporary art and introducing the public to a relevant, yet for many people an unfamiliar chapter of art history. Cai Guo-Qiang was awarded the BACA 2016 by a unanimous vote. The international selection committee for 2016 comprised of Cao Fei (artist), Stijn Huijts (Bonnefantenmuseum director), William Lim (architect, collector), Carol Lu (curator, writer), Lars Nittve (former director M+ Museum Hong Kong) and Uli Sigg (collector).

Invitation to the press preview

The museum invites members of the press to the preview of Cai Guo-Qiang: My Stories of Painting on Thursday 29 September between 11:00am – 12:30pm. Please rsvp via For further information and visual material, please contact Lieke Heijmans, +31(0) 6 27 494 829,

For more information about the artist and the exhibition, please visit:


The BACA and Cai Guo-Qiang: My Stories of Painting receives generous support from the Province of Limburg, DSM, the Bankgiro Loterij, the Mondriaan Fund,  the VSBFonds, the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands.

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Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang Receives Critical Acclaim Following Worldwide Release



Film stills taken from documentary Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang, all images courtesy Netflix

On October 13, 2016, Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang—the first full-length documentary feature on Cai Guo-Qiang—premiered at Sotheby’s New York headquarters, attended by more than two hundred distinguished guests. As of October 14, the film appears in cinemas in New York and Los Angeles and is distributed in 190 countries via Netflix. Sky Ladder instantly caught the attention of the press and was reviewed by nearly fifty publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and Vogue.


“Some of Cai Guo-Qiang’s art exists for mere moments. But my, how long it sticks in the mind. That enchantment is at the center of ‘Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang,’ a documentary that is as rewarding as this artist’s work.”
“It’s no spoiler to reveal that ‘Sky Ladder,’ the art project, eventually succeeds, and its fleeting existence is magnificent. It says something about the work, and perhaps about life, that brevity adds an element that’s both magical and saddening.”
“Though if you watch Mr. Cai’s works on video, you can always rewind.”  —The New York Times

“A documentary that begs to be seen in a theater…‘Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang’ offers an inviting glimpse into the life of a truly international artist, one whose colorful fireworks displays literally paint the air…Kevin Macdonald’s beautifully shot, quietly hovering portrait is of a pensive, dogged man…”  —The Los Angeles Times

“The documentary Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang was shot by Wes Anderson collaborator Robert Yeoman, who captures the beautiful, cacophonous (even terrifying) explosions, and the more sedentary moments of Cai’s everyday life with equal grace.”  —Vogue

“Nothing typifies the toweringly celestial ambition of the Chinese contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang than his ‘sky ladder’, a project over 20 years in the making.”  —The Guardian

“Cai’s grandmother watches [Sky Ladder] unfold via an iPad, after which the artist breathlessly asks her, ‘Isn’t your grandson awesome?’ It’s a beautiful, touching moment that says more about the artistic urge than any scholarly tome ever could.”  —Hollywood Reporter

“Perhaps Cai‘s most compelling, personal work yet… As the massive sculpture ignites, it creates a fiery vision that miraculously ascends to the heavens…Chances to see such work in person are rare, but the film offers something even more special…”  —Artnet News

“Macdonald effectively draws lines between his subject’s past and his present, attempting to make sense of what his harshest critics see as self-serving contradictions. In a way, it’s all of a piece, embracing the best and worst of an ever-changing nation.”  —AV Club

“[…] the film hopes to catch the eye of Oscar voters. And frankly it stands a great chance of being nominated for Best Documentary, with its astute coverage of the artist, his groundbreaking work, his family, including his 100-year-old grandmother, and Mao’s China.”  —Blasting News

Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang is scheduled to be released in China in November.


Watch the Film:
In Theaters:
IFC Center (New York)
Show times: October 14 – 20, 1:15pm, 2:50pm, 4:25pm, 6:05pm
Address: 323 6th Ave, New York, NY 10014
Ticket purchase:

Playhouse 7 (Los Angeles)
Show times: October 14 – 20, 11:00am, 1:00pm, 4:00pm, 6:00pm, 8:00pm, 10:00pm
Address: 673 East Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 91101
Ticket purchase:

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Sky Ladder: An Explosive Documentary On Artist Cai Guo-Qiang





















Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang is a narrative documentary film directed by Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald and produced by Wendi Deng Murdoch, Hugo Shong, and Fisher Stevens. The 70-minute feature will debut as a Netflix original film, and will be available in over 190 countries starting October 14, 2016. It will be the first full-length documentary feature on Cai, one of the world’s most influential contemporary artists.

The documentary will also be on view in New York from October 14 – 20 at the IFC Center:
323 6th Ave, New York, NY 10014
1:15 pm, 2:50 pm, 4:25 pm, 6:05 pm


Known for his work with gunpowder and fireworks, Cai Guo-Qiang’s explosive artwork has long amazed audiences all over the world. His works, which include drawings, paintings, installations, and explosion events, have been exhibited in almost every major art destination around the globe. While founded in Eastern philosophy, his artistic projects adopt ever-expanding forms of artistic expression and interpretation that respond to local cultures, histories, and various issues in modern society.

Director Kevin Macdonald spent two years with Cai, taking an in-depth look at the artist’s work and daily life while following him from New York to Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Beijing, Liuyang, and his hometown of Quanzhou. Told through the eyes of family, friends, collaborators, art experts, and Cai himself, along with rare footage selected from the artist’s archives, Sky Ladder follows Cai’s meteoric rise on the international stage. It is a dazzling journey that culminates in his becoming an artist known for “lighting fires” all over the world: highlighted by the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, his 2008 Guggenheim solo exhibition in New York, the 2013 explosion event One Night Stand on the banks of the Seine, the 2014 daytime explosion event Elegy in Shanghai—among many others. The film also delves into the harsh realities behind these spectacular visions: the struggles, compromises, vulnerabilities, love and family ties, as well as the artist’s complex and profound feelings toward his home and country.



Top: Cai Guo-Qiang with his wife Hong Hong Wu and daughters arriving at Huiyu Island. Photo by Daxin Wu, courtesy Cai Studio; Bottom: Sky Ladder preparation process, 2015. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio

At the heart of the film is Sky Ladder, a 500-meter ladder of golden flames that hissed and roared its way from the shore of a small fishing village in Quanzhou up into the blue sky and the infinite universe beyond. This is the realization of Cai’s childhood dream—a dream to connect with the stars—one that has been attempted multiple times around the world, and one that he never stopped pursuing despite countless obstacles. In June 2015, he made yet another attempt. At dawn, with help from Chinese technical experts and hundreds of local villagers, Cai dedicated Sky Ladder as a gift to his one hundred-year-old grandmother and to his beloved hometown.

A story of one individual artist and his singular dream, Sky Ladder is also a film about undeniably universal human emotions. It has the power to move audiences from any culture or nation, as proven by responses at both the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and the 2016 BFI London Film Festival.


About the Filmmakers

Director Kevin Macdonald’s works include Academy Award Best Documentary One Day in September(1999), BAFTA Best British Film Touching the Void (2003), and Academy Award-winning feature film The Last King of Scotland (2006). Executive Producer Bennet Miller is known for directing Capote (2005), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award and a BAFTA; Moneyball (2011), which received six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture; and Foxcatcher (2014), for which he won Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival. Executive Producer Angus Wall is known for The Social Network(2010) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), for both of which he won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing. Producers include Wendi Deng Murdoch (television producer and co-founder of online art platform Artsy), Fisher Stevens (director and producer of over thirty films, including 2010 Academy Award Best Documentary The Cove), and Hugo Shong (Founding General Partner of IDG Capital Partners and renowned Chinese film producer). Assistant Director and Co-producer Xia Shanshan has worked with Cai Guo-Qiang for many years, and has produced numerous art documentaries including What About the Art? Contemporary Art from China (2016). Director of Photography Robert Yeoman is a longtime collaborator of world-renowned filmmaker Wes Anderson. He was the director of photography for numerous critically acclaimed features including Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).

Show Times, New York, October 14 – 20:
IFC Center, 1:15 pm, 2:50 pm, 4:25 pm, 6:05 pm
323 6th Ave, New York, NY 10014

For More Information:
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