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Reflections from Curator Philip TinariCai Guo-Qiang

March 5, 2014

Filmed for the occasion of Armory Focus: China at The Armory Show 2014 in New York City, curator Philip Tinari reflects on the work of Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang. Tinari, director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing and curator of Armory Focus: China, discusses the artist’s on-going fascination with gunpowder, as well as an interest in how “‘Chinese-ness’ is transported across time and space.”

More information and credits

Cai Guo-Qiang was first featured by Art21 in Season 3 (2005) of the Art in the Twenty-First Century series. Philip Tinari began a partnership with Art21 in 2009, interviewing artist Cao Fei in Beijing for Season 5 (2009) of the Art in the Twenty-First Century series. Tinari would again partner with Art21 to interview artist Ai Weiwei in Beijing for Season 6 (2012).

Armory Focus is a specially curated section of The Armory Show that highlights the artistic landscape of a chosen geographic region. For The Armory Show 2014, Philip Tinari curated Armory Focus: China, shining new light on the country’s contemporary cultural practice.


Producer: Eve Moros Ortega. Interview: Eve Moros Ortega. Camera: Rafael Salazar. Sound: Ava Wiland. Editor: Morgan Riles. Artwork Courtesy: Cai Guo-Qiang. Thanks: Philip Tinari, The Armory Show, Christopher Mao, and John Tancock. Theme Music: Peter Foley. Original Cai Guo-Qiang segment excerpted from Season 3 (2005) of the Art in the Twenty-First Century series. © Art21, Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Cai Guo-Qiang

Accomplished in a variety of media, Cai Guo-Qiang began using gunpowder in his work to foster spontaneity and confront the controlled artistic tradition and social climate in China. While living in Japan from 1986 to 1995, he explored the properties of gunpowder in his drawings, leading to the development of his signature explosion events. These projects, while poetic and ambitious at their core, aim to establish an exchange between viewers and the larger universe. For his work, Cai draws on a wide variety of materials, symbols, narratives, and traditions: elements of feng shui, Chinese medicine and philosophy, images of dragons and tigers, roller coasters, computers, vending machines, and gunpowder.

“Cai is a great advocate for the Chinese invention of gunpowder, which continues to fascinate him.”

Philip Tinari

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Read 1


Spirituality, Chaos, and “Inopportune”

Artist Cai Guo-Qiang discusses the inspiration for his work, his methodology, and his 2004 installation series, Inopportune.