Cai Guo-Qiang - China Avant-Garde: The Farber Collection London Friday, October 12, 2007 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist

  • Exhibited

    Obihiro, Demeter: Tokachi International Contemporary Art Exhibition, August 11, 2002

  • Literature

    Demeter: Tokachi International Contemporary Art Exhibition, Tokyo, 2002, pp. 33-37 (illustrated) and 158; Yomiuri Shimbun, August 6, 2002 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Cai originally conceived the Project for Obihiro – Sky Bound UFO and Shrine in this manner for the site-specific Demeter art exhibition in the Japanese city of Obihiro:

    A UFO-shaped airship (30m in diameter x 10m high) appears above the racetrack. A shrine painted in vermilion is connected beneath it. On the day of the opening, the airship will be filled with gas so that the UFO rises into the sky. The shrine leaves the ground and is pulled into the sky. The white UFO and the vermilion shrine float in the open blue sky of Obihiro, and at night they are lit as though receiving a quiet white light like a moon or the hopeful colors of a rainbow.

    One evening in August, roman candles attached to the bottom of the shrine and on the outside edge of the UFO will be lit. With the fireworks shooting fire diagonally up and around, the UFO will be transformed into a fire crown and the shrine will shoot flames onto the ground like a rocket at launch.

    The expansion of the horizon will be highlighted by the vertical lines of this piece. This work symbolizes the power of the pristine and fertile earth that overcomes the pioneering and exploitation of the past, and the history of the transplantation of religion and culture. – Cai Guoqiang

    The Tokachi area was ravaged by a typhoon during the work’s installation. Cai’s UFO was partially damaged and could not fly as planned. However, the artist contemporaneously modified his original idea. He repaired the balloon and partially inflated it so that it rose in a dome from the ground. On August 11, he drew on the 30m-wide balloon with gunpowder and placed a 4500 m-long fuse around the inside and outside of the UFO, and proceeded to execute one of his legendary gunpowder performances. The event was reported with elation:

    “The weather was risky since it had rained every day before the day of the event. That day was cloudy but the rain had stopped. Many gunpowder craftsmen and volunteers gathered around the balloon. More and more journalists from Tokyo and people who had heard of the event gathered around. Mysteriously, the sky in the west began showing a burning sunset and shining white clouds. In a very dramatic atmosphere, people waited with a sense of anticipation.

    At 6:40 pm, after we turned off the lights, the explosive sound started and the fire went off. On the surface of the UFO, the fire raced around at top speed, igniting the fuse inside.

    An orange flush went around inside the balloon. This gunpowder performance ended so quickly. It took only thirty seconds. The audience, who had witnessed the strength and flexibility of the fire running like a dragon, became very excited to be at this spectacle. In fact, Cai Guo Qiang himself said that it was one of his most successful gunpowder events. He smiled and said, "this feels right.” (Chiaki Sakaguchi for P3, at


Skybound UFO and Shrine

Gunpowder on paper.
102 x 133 1/2 in. (259.1 x 339.1 cm).
Signed, titled and dated “Skybound [in Japanese] UFO [in English] and Shrine, Tokachi [in Japanese], 2002.7.10, Cai Guo Qiang [in Chinese]” lower right.

£150,000 - 200,000 

Sold for £378,400

China Avant-Garde: The Farber Collection

The Farber Collection
13 October 2007, 7pm