Award Citation

Mr. Cai Guo-Qiang is one of the most exciting contemporary artists in the world. He is known for his dynamic art forms and the use of gunpowder explosion and fireworks in these. He continues to create new possibilities in the field of modern art with his very original choice of materials and techniques which enables his work to develop on a cosmic scale. His art work, which incorporates not only internationalism and universalism but also a deep philosophy based on traditional Chinese world-views, has won a global reputation.

Mr. Cai was born in 1957 in the once prosperous harbor city of Quanzhou, Fujian Province. After spending his childhood during the Cultural Revolution, he studied stage design at the Shanghai Drama Institute in the early 1980s. His pursuit of a means of artistic expression free from any conventional method led him to the use of gunpowder, which fascinated him for its inherent spontaneity and for its double aspect combining creativity and destructiveness.

He lived in Japan for 9 years from 1986, and there his art became the focus of public attention for its use of gunpowder explosion directly on washi (Japanese paper). This led to his involvement in the ‘Exceptional Passage: Chinese Avant-Garde Artists Exhibition’ in Fukuoka, and also the ‘Project for Extraterrestrials’, a series of large-scale outdoor events using explosives.

Since 1995, he has lived in New York. He has received invitations to participate in art exhibitions throughout the world, and has been awarded many prizes including the Venice Biennale International Prize (Golden Lion) in 1999. His reputation was firmly established by then. He carried out various performances with fireworks in different cities of the world, such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Cityscape Fireworks in Shanghai in 2001. Above all, he produced a firework display of epic proportions for the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games which was televised globally and left a deep impression in many people's memories.

Mr. Cai's art is distinguished by his endless hunger for innovative artistic methodology on one side, and also by its foundation upon a view of world very different from that of the West, a perspective which can be seen in the integration with Chinese cultural elements such as gunpowder and Chinese medicine into his art, and also in the way that fengshui philosophy is reflected in it. His work, rooted in a unique sense of history and cosmology, reveals a profound philosophical ideology. The world which his work represents has a wide social expanse beyond artistic spectacle, abstract concepts and an individualistic methodology, and addresses a variety of the current problems faced by humanity such as the nuclear and environmental issues.

Mr. Cai Guo-Qiang, in his practice as an artist, has always been ahead of international artistic society in the originality with which he expresses his spectacular vision of mankind and the universe, while at the same time breaking down existing artistic concepts. He is indeed a worthy person for the Arts and Cultures Prize of the Fukuoka Prize with his acute awareness of contemporary issues, with the originality and universality of his creative power.

With classmates at the Shanghai Art Academy, 1984 (Far right)
Being searched by security before entering the launch site on the morning of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Cityscape Fireworks, 2001. [Photo: Courtesy of Cai Studio]
Creating a gunpowder drawing, Bird of Light (2004), at Fireworks by Grucci, Brookhaven, New York, 2004 [Photo: by Chris Smith, courtesy of Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden]