Flora Commedia: Cai Guo-Qiang at the Uffizi

© Cai Studio / Ph. Yvonne Zhao | Cai Guo-Qiang, Renaissance Flower Garden, 2018. Gunpowder on canvas, 300x400 cm.


From 20 Novembre 2018 to 17 Febbraio 2019


Place: Gallerie degli Uffizi

Address: piazzale degli Uffizi

Responsibles: Eike Schmidt, Laura Donati

E-Mail info: uffizimedia@beniculturali.it

Official site: http://https://www.uffizi.it/

The Uffizi Galleries are honored to announce contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s latest solo exhibition, Flora Commedia, opening on November 20, 2018. The exhibition is co-curated by Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi, together with Laura Donati, curator in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Uffizi Galleries.
The exhibition draws its title from the Divina Commediaby Florentine poet Dante. The artist engages the flora of the Renaissance as his subject matter, capturing the spirit and soul of the period; through painting flowers, Cai Guo-Qiang is painting nature, the cosmos and personal emotions. In preparing for the exhibition, the artist dedicated himself to studying the metal point technique at the Uffizi’s Department of Prints and Drawings, and repeatedly visited the Medici family’s Boboli Gardens to study the many varieties of Renaissance flora. The Limonaia, a former Medici family greenhouse and current home to the continued cultivation of Renaissance flora, has served as a major source of inspiration. Cai Guo-Qiang has also worked closely with botanical experts at the Uffizi, re-breeding floral varieties from the Renaissance and bringing them to the canvas.
The exhibition will occupy ten galleries connected to those that hold Caravaggio’s works, located in the Uffizi’s main building. Each gallery engages with an individual theme, including “Dialogue with Caravaggio,” “Garden of the Renaissance,” “Garden of Color,” “Garden of Nature,” “Garden of the Cosmos,” and “Garden of the Erotic.” Together, they feature approximately sixty works or groups of gunpowder paintings that vary in size, in addition to select artist sketches that illustrate the creative process. The works were largely created with original painting techniques developed specifically for the exhibition, including the technique of painting with incense stick that was inspired by the Uffizi’s collection of silverpoint drawings. Cai Guo-Qiang explains: “I wanted to purify things this time and focus primarily on painting ‘flowers’… focusing on one theme brought me even more considerations: What else can be done with painting? How can we create good paintings through flowers? How can we paint with liberated release and natural ease, driving the paintings to be bolder and bolder? To become free and unrestrained by anchoring and centering the heart and mind—these form the concept and goals. Once you have purified things, it becomes even more difficult to avoid the difficulties of painting!” Eike Schmidt, Director of the Uffizi Galleries, adds: “Cai’s work epitomizes the explosive quality of the creative process in a tachygraphiataking to the extreme: fleeting, instantaneous and as we observe the traces of gestures and movement, necessarily reminiscent of moments already gone by. By alluding to iconic paintings of the past, these images become metaphors of their sudden and powerful return from the depths of memory.”

Flora Commedia: Cai Guo-Qiang at the Uffiziis also a critical continuation of Cai’s project, “An Individual’s Journey through Western Art History,” which began in 2017 and comprises solo exhibitions in six world-renowned art museums including the Prado Museum, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, and the Archaeological Museum of Naples (February 2019). Each exhibition engages in dialogue with the respective paragons of Western art history represented by each institution, with the common goal of exploring new possibilities in art today. As a 21stcentury artist from the East, Cai Guo-Qiang paints with the artistic expression, methods, framework and temperament of a contemporary artist, pursuing a meaningful dialogue with the spirit of the Renaissance.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue (Italian, English and Mandarin Chinese editions) with essays by Eike Schmidt, the Uffizi Director, curator Germano Celant, art historian Simon Schama, Flora Commediaco-curator Laura Donati, and the artist himself. A short documentary directed by Shanshan Xia will be released, revealing the artist’s persistence, vulnerability, vacillation and self-doubt on this journey of painting.
The exhibition is made possible by the invaluable support of Mr. and Mrs. Silas Chou and Mr. and Mrs. Cheung Chung Kiu, and by special contributions from Art Care Art Consultant co., Ltd. and the Shanghai International Culture Association.

Cai Guo-Qiang was born in 1957 in Quanzhou City, 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. Drawing upon Eastern philosophy and contemporary social issues as a conceptual basis, his artworks respond directly to local culture and history, and establish an exchange between viewers and the larger universe around them. His signature explosion art and installations are full of a vitality and force that transcends beyond the two-dimensional plane, and expands from the museum space into society and nature. 
Cai Guo-Qiang was awarded the Golden Lion at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, the 20thFukuoka 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. 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 June 2015, Cai created explosion event Sky Ladderoff of Huiyu Island, Quanzhou, China; the artwork became the central piece in the 2016 Netflix documentary Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang, directed by Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald. 
His largest public art project in the United States in the past decade,Cai Guo-Qiang: Fireflies, was launched in Philadelphia September 2017. In the same year, his most recent explosion event, Color Mushroom Cloud, was realized in December in Chicago. His solo exhibitions in 2017 included Cai Guo-Qiang: October at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia; and The Spirit of Painting. Cai Guo-Qiang at the Pradoat the Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.
He currently lives and works in New York.