Cai Guo-Qiang lights up Doha show with alternative look at Chinese art

Artist hopes to refocus critical discussions onto the work itself with an exhibition featuring 15 of his compatriots at Qatar Museums

by Pac Pobric  |  16 March 2016
Cai Guo-Qiang lights up Doha show with alternative look at Chinese art
Cai Guo-Qiang wants the Doha exhibition to focus on the art itself
Photo Shu-Wen Lin, courtesy Cai studio
The Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, who is best known for his displays using fireworks and blazing gunpowder, has organised an exhibition of work by 15 of his compatriots that opened at  Qatar Museums in Doha this week. Cai hopes that the show, entitled What About the Art? Contemporary Art from China (until 16 July), will be a corrective to the standard framework in which Chinese art is presented. “The world has been paying attention to contemporary Chinese art for quite a while, but often from the perspective of the cultural context or socio-political issues that the work presents, or [through] its record auction results,” he says. “What I hope to call attention to is the art itself.”

The exhibition is the result of almost three years of research by Cai, who has lived in New York since 1995, and his studio, during which they looked closely at the exhibition history of Chinese contemporary art. Part of this research will be included in the show’s Timeline section, to explain what kind of art finds favour in China. “I want Qatari audiences to understand that the artists in the exhibition are pushing against something, so Timeline gives background [into] what is officially celebrated in China,” Cai says.

The project forms part of the 2016 Qatar-China Year of Culture and is supported by the Beijing government, among others.

Meanwhile, Cai’s work is the subject of a documentary by the film-maker Kevin MacDonald. Entitled Sky Ladder, it was presented at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah in January.

• A full interview with the artist will appear in our Art Basel Hong Kong daily papers, which will be available online next week

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