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Cai Guo-Qiang to Open First Show in the Middle East at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art
Cai Guo-Qiang (b. 1957, Quanzhou, China; Lives in New York), Computer rendering of the new installation work ”Homecoming” at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art. View of installation in the Museum’s courtyard. Proposed medium: 60 carved rocks. Dimensions variable, Courtesy Cai Studio.

DOHA.- Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art announced an exhibition of new and recent work by the internationally renowned Chinese-born artist Cai Guo-Qiang. On view from December 5, 2011 to May 26, 2012, Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab will be the artist’s first solo exhibition in the Middle East, as well as the first single-artist exhibition at Mathaf since its grand opening in December 2010. Saraab will feature more than 50 works, including newly commissioned pieces, recent artwork, and documentary materials that illustrate the artist’s unique creative process.

“Qatar Museums Authority is pleased to advance our mission to encourage global cultural dialogue and exchange by presenting the work of Cai Guo-Qiang at Mathaf,” said Qatar Museums Authority Chairperson Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. “Through this exhibition, Cai Guo-Qiang will use his perspective as an artist to further extend the relationship between China and Arabia that dates back to the Silk Road, all the while exploring the possibility of direct dialogue between two cultures in the new context of globalization.”

In Saraab (“mirage” in Arabic), Cai will explore the complex connections between Qatar and Cai’s hometown of Quanzhou, a city once known as one of China’s largest seaports and a gateway to the historic Silk Road on sea. Saraab will showcase Cai’s body of work and approach, crossing artistic mediums of drawing, installation, video, and his celebrated explosion events. 16 new pieces will be created for the show, including large-scale, site-specific installations and new examples of his signature “gunpowder drawings.” The creative process of the latter, produced with the assistance of local volunteers, will be open to the public. The new works will be influenced or inspired by Islamic architectural forms and decorative patterns that depict such diverse motifs as the desert landscape, navigation, ceramics, calligraphy, and animals. In addition, Saraab will include thirty recent works and nine documentary videos that trace the artist’s development over the years as well as expand awareness of the artist’s creative process.

“With this exhibition, Mathaf will offer a unique take on the Arab world of yesterday and today, presenting a show with a strong relationship to place—one that is truly of and inspired by Doha,” said Mathaf director Wassan Al-Khudhairi. “Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab also continues Mathaf’s commitment to being an incubator of ideas by encouraging new work by non-Western artists and documenting the artistic method.”

“The exhibition at Mathaf gives me an opportunity to read and understand what is written in Arabic on the tombstones and steles that were everywhere in my hometown growing up,” said the artist. “A creative journey begins with these inscriptions, and the whole project is an attempt to connect the history and culture of my hometown with Arab history and with the culture of Qatar. From this, associations of how Arab culture at present relates to the rest of the world are formed. For many of the new works, their materials and forms were inspired by Arab culture. To foster an exchange and to collaborate with the local community is also an important aspect in the creation of these works.”

A bilingual Arabic-English catalogue will accompany the exhibition, featuring images of new work created for Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab, as well as images of some never-before-published early works by the artist.

Cai Guo-Qiang was born in 1957 in Quanzhou, Fujian Province, China. Trained in stage design at the Shanghai Theater Academy, his work has since crossed multiple mediums within art, including drawing, installation, video and performance art. While living in Japan from 1986 to 1995, he explored the properties of gunpowder in his drawings, an inquiry that eventually led to his experimentation with explosives on a massive scale and to the development of his signature explosion events. Drawing upon Eastern philosophy and contemporary social issues as a conceptual basis, these projects and events aim to establish an exchange between viewers and the larger universe around them, utilizing a site-specific approach to culture and history. Cai was awarded the Golden Lion at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, the 7th Hiroshima Art Prize in 2007, and the 20th Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 2009. He was Director of Visual and Special Effects for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. In 2008, he was the subject of a retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. In Fall 2010, Cai created Odyssey for the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Installed as one of the museum’s ongoing Portal Project, it is one of his largest gunpowder drawings to date. He currently lives and works in New York.

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