This sponsorship falls within the framework of the support that ACCIONA provides for the most innovative projects at the Museo del Prado. In effect, the museum has opened its facilities to living artists such as Miguel Barceló, Thomas Struth, Cy Twombly and Richard Hamilton, amongst others.
The guest on this occasion is the multi-disciplinary and internationally-renowned artist Cai Guo-Qiang (Quanzhou, China, 1957), whose initial training as a painter began with his fervent admiration for El Greco, which led him to undertake a journey in his honour in the year 2009, starting in Crete and ending in Toledo. This initial vocation to be a painter has always remained. Employing gunpowder as the medium, and a performance-based form of creation, he innovated gunpowder painting on canvas and handmade paper.
After settling in New York in 1995, where he currently works and resides, his painting practice has developed in parallel with various large installations, explosion events and fireworks, including the fireworks for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games (2008), and the explosion event Sky Ladder which was realized at Huiyu Island, in his hometown Quanzhou, China, and dedicated to his 100-year grandmother and hometown folks (2015).
Cai Guo-Qiang will create several new works on site at the Salón de Reinos Building this upcoming September. The works will be inspired by recollections of the former Palace of El Buen Retiro and by a particular relationship with the great master paintings in the collection of the Museo del Prado. This “residency” will culminate on October 23 2017 with the live creation of a work of monumental scale entitled "The Spirit of Painting." All the paintings will be exhibited at the Prado Museum until March 2018.
José Manuel Entrecanales, Executive Chairman of ACCIONA, and José Pedro Pérez Llorca, President of the Royal Board of Trustees of the Museo del Prado, signed a collaboration agreement today for the organisation of the project entitled Cai Guo-Qiang at the Prado: The Spirit of Painting, which will take place in the Jerónimos Building of the Prado from October 25th 2017 to March 4th 2018.
By virtue of this agreement, ACCIONA which is always especially keen to promote innovation, once again undertakes to support an important project at the Museum linked to contemporary creation. On this occasion, this project has emerged from the artist’s decades of fascination with El Greco and his relentless exploration of his painting practice; through the Prado’s experts and its collection, he tries to dialogue with the spirit of the master painters, through his own special and innovative artistic approach.
The agreement signing ceremony, which featured the participation of the artist himself, presented a general outline of the project in which Cai Guo-Qiang will turn the Salón de Reinos into his studio, producing a series of works inspired by recollections of a former palatial setting - in the very same space, Philips IV once commissioned the best painters of his time, such as Velazquez, to compete for artistic excellency. The on-site creation will take place around a month prior to the exhibition opening, and culminate with the completion of an 18-meter work entitled “The Spirit of Painting”.
Besides the paintings created at the Salón de Reinos, the exhibition will also feature selected paintings that have never before been exhibited. Visitors will gain insight into the dialogue that Cai Guo-Qiang has established with the spirit of El Greco since his early years of training. New paintings, including a triptych inspired by the great master, will be complemented by some of the artist’s early works; and the public will learn about the journey that Cai undertook in 2009 following in the footsteps of El Greco - from his native village Crete to Venice, Madrid and, in his later years, Toledo. Some other paintings will reflect Cai’s search for the spirit of painting of El Greco, Velasquez, Rubens, and Goya, through the techniques, and sensuality of these Masters’ works.
Cai Guo-Qiang will use local gunpowder from Valencia for the first time, to create most of the new paintings for the exhibition.
Cai Guo-Qiang (b. 1957, Quanzhou, Fujian Province, China). He was trained in stage design at the Shanghai Theater Academy, and his work has since crossed multiple mediums within art, including drawing, installation, video and performance. While living in Japan from 1986 to 1995, he explored the properties of gunpowder in his drawings, an inquiry that eventually led to the development of his signature explosion events.
Cai was awarded the Golden Lion at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, the 20th Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 2009, the Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation Award in 2015, and the Bonnefanten Award for Contemporary Art (BACA) 2016. In 2012, He was honored as one of five Laureates for the prestigious Praemium Imperiale, an award that recognizes lifetime achievement in the arts in categories not covered by the Nobel Prize. Additionally, he was also among the five artists who received the first U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts award for his outstanding commitment to international cultural exchange. Cai also served as Director of Visual and Special Effects for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Among his many solo exhibitions and projects include Cai Guo-Qiang on the Roof: Transparent Monument, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2006 and his retrospective I Want to Believe, which opened at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York in 2008. The latter was toured to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in 2009. His first-ever solo exhibition in Brazil, Da Vincis do Povo, went on a three-city tour around the country in 2013. Traveling from Brasilia to São Paulo before reaching its final destination in Rio de Janeiro, it was the most visited exhibition by a living artist worldwide that year with over one million visitors. In October 2013, Cai created One Night Stand (Aventure d’un Soir), an explosion event for Nuit Blanche, a citywide art and culture festival organized by the city of Paris.
His recent solo exhibitions include There and Back Again at the Yokohama Museum of Art (2015) and My Stories of Painting at the Bonnefantenmuseum Maastricht (2016). On June 15, 2015, Cai realized his most recent explosion event Sky Ladder off of Huiyu Island, Quanzhou, China.
He currently lives and works in New York.