Cai Guo-Qiang creates first gunpowder painting in Moscow for upcoming solo exhibition October at The Pushkin State Museum Of Fine Arts


Renowned contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang has arrived in Moscow to prepare for October, his first solo exhibition in Russia. Created as a reflection on the centenary of the October Revolution, the exhibition will be on view at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts from September 13 to November 12, 2017 as a crucial component of the new Pushkin Museum XXI project.

Today at VDNKh (the former All-Russia Exhibition Center) Pavilion No. 22, Cai ignited a 3 x 20 meter black gunpowder painting on canvas, titled River. The colossal painting combines 100 photographs of everyday life from the past 100 years in Russia, shaping them into a long and turbulent river that captures the progression of history and the fateful events of the 20th century. The 100 images were first made into stencils using laser-cut technology and, with the participation of local volunteers, were composed into a vast and winding river on canvas. The artist then spreads assorted traditional gunpowder and black color powder over the stencils, tracing the details of each image. As a final step, he sets the painting alight with gunpowder fuse — a resounding explosion scorches the images onto the canvas, mimicking the visual effect of photo negatives.

In the following week, Cai will create two more large-scale gunpowder paintings. For The Sound, measuring 5 x 20 meters, the artist will use gunpowder to burn into delicate silk a verse from The Internationale: “There are no supreme saviors. Neither God, nor tsar, nor hero.” The finished work will be installed above the central staircase inside the museum, hovering over visitors like a gently wavering white flag. A second 3 x 20 meter gunpowder painting, Garden, will be created using color gunpowder on canvas. Cai will embed images from Soviet-era posters within a garden of

wildly colored poppies and red carnations. All three works will be unveiled at the exhibition’s opening.

Cai began using gunpowder as an art medium in 1984. While living in Japan from 1986 to 1995, he continued to explore the properties of gunpowder in art, a journey that gradually developed into his large-scale gunpowder paintings and outdoor pyrotechnic explosion events. In recent years, he began using advanced pyrotechnic technology and environmentally friendly materials to realize daytime fireworks — or in his own words, “painting in the sky.” Since 2015, he has been painting with color gunpowder, the same material used in daytime fireworks.

Cai’s work does not only address a narrow art world audience. By involving volunteers in his creative process, Cai allows local communities to become part of his works, leaving their own marks while experiencing the challenges, difficulties and joys of the artist. In the moments before ignition, everyone present — the artist, the audience and the volunteers whose energy have become an integral part of the work — are caught in shared excitement and suspense, anticipating the unpredictability of the outcome. Cai’s artworks are not confined to the creative output of an individual artist; the lives of the artworks are expanded by becoming part of the lives of the local participants and audience.

Alexandra Danilova, curator:

"Trained in stage design, Cai Guo-Qiang carefully arranges the dramaturgy of his works, in which the spectacle is placed side by side with philosophy. While engaging the audience’s attention, he further propels them to reflect on history, their own fate, the past, present and future.”

Cai Guo-Qiang's project in Russia extends the tradition of joint projects by the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and Sberbank. In November 2016, the exhibition Making The Invisible Visible opened. A special collaborative project between the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and Sberbank, it was the first exhibition in Russia that showcases the tactile paintings from the museum’s collection; with the use of innovative technology, the exhibition produced special experience for the bline and the visually impaired. Since February 2017, the exhibition started its tour around Russia. It has already been visited by audiences in cities such as Kazan, Volgograd, Voronezh, Yekaterinburg, and Omsk.


Cai Guo-Qiang: October

13.09.2017 – 12.11.2017

Main Building

In September 2017, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts will present leading international contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s first solo exhibition in Russia: Cai Guo-Qiang: October. A reflection on the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the ambitious body of work originally created for the exhibition will transform the main exhibition areas of the museum.


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