Cai Guo-Qiang: Peony and Dahlia No. 2

Cai Guo-Qiang (ACC 1995)
Born 1957, Quanzhou, China; Lives in New York

Peony and Dahlia No. 2, 2017
Gunpowder on canvas
183 x 152.5 cm
Collection of the artist
Created for the Prado Museum Solo Exhibition Series in 2017
Sold for HKD 4,685,000 (est. USD 604,500). Price includes buyer's premium.

Cai Guo-Qiang arrived in New York in 1995 for his year-long ACC Fellowship.  Cai, who had been living and working in Japan for a number of years, was selected to join the PS1 International Studio Program. Known today for his stirring gunpowder drawings and electrifying explosion events, Cai had already begun to experiment with gunpowder early in his artistic career. Exploring an artform whose explosive possibilities were restricted within the New York metropolis, Cai sought the larger canvas of the American west. “I wanted to go to the Nevada Nuclear Test Site,” Cai recalled “[ACC] managed to get three permits, one from the FBI, one from the Department of Energy, and one from the Department of Defense.” Flanked by an assistant, videographer, and cameraman, armed with gunpowder from dismantled Chinese firecrackers, Cai made his first work in the U.S., a miniature mushroom cloud that would pave the way for future gunpowder paintings and explosion events.

Peony and Dahlia No. 2, a gunpowder on canvas work, is a stunning example of the evolution of Cai’s artistic expression. It was created on-site for his solo exhibition at the Prado in 2017. “This work,” he explained, “is the first colored gunpowder of mine to be auctioned. Before, my gunpowder paintings were mostly black and white. I started working more with color gunpowder, which comes from daytime fireworks in 2016. Somehow, this use of color gunpowder goes well with one project I’ve been undergoing, which is my personal journey through Western art history.”

Beyond talent and leadership in their field, ACC selects individuals for its grants who show significant potential to engage with the places where they undertake their fellowships. With a commitment to fostering cross-cultural connections and a keen insight into the international arts landscape, Cai has been a longstanding philanthropic partner to ACC, generously donating to support the next generation of artists and arts professionals from China.