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  • 1. Path-Breaking Cai Guo-Qiang Exhibition Opens Dec. 5at MathafFeatures 17 New Commissions, Including Major Opening-DayExplosion EventCai Guo-Qiang: SaraabDecember 5, 2011 – May 26, 2012Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, QatarDOHA, December 4, 2011: Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art presents Cai Guo-Qiang:Saraab, a major exhibition featuring newly commissioned work by Cai Guo-Qiang, one of thepreeminent artists of our era. As Cai’s first solo exhibition in the Middle East and the firstsingle-artist exhibition presented by Mathaf, Saraab opens new avenues of dialogue for theArabian Gulf, as the region explores its historic and contemporary links across Asia.On view from December 5, 2011 through May 26, 2012, Saraab (“mirage” in Arabic) connectsthe history and culture of Cai’s hometown of Quanzhou, China, to that of Doha, Qatar. Theexhibition illuminates the long-standing but little-known multilayered relationship betweenChina and the Arab world, dating back to the ancient maritime Silk Road. Curated by WassanAl-Khudhairi, director of Mathaf, the exhibition showcases over 50 works installed throughoutthe entire museum, including 17 newly commissioned pieces, a selection of recent works onpaper, canvas, and porcelain, and documentary videos on the making of Saraab and onprevious works by Cai. The December 5 public opening will be preceded by a large-scaledaytime explosion event, titled Black Ceremony.“Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art is the first institution of its kind in our region, and amajor new center for art and education throughout the world,” said Qatar Museums AuthorityChairperson Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. “Mathaf,and the entire Qatar Museums Authority, are expanding people’s ideas about art and culturein this region. With this exhibition by Cai Guo-Qiang, we open fascinating new territory for theartist and our audience to interact and engage in exciting new ways.” [DRAFT QUOTE]“Saraab is a first for both Cai Guo-Qiang and Mathaf,” said Wassan Al-Khudhairi. “For Cai, itis the first time he has had a solo exhibition in the Middle East. And for Mathaf, it is the firsttime we have turned our eyes eastward, to consider the dynamics of cultural exchangebetween our region and China. By re-imagining Asian connections in this way, Saraab canhelp viewers to look beyond an "East/West" relationship in contemporary art. It has been agreat pleasure to collaborate with Cai on this extraordinary exhibition.”“Although Qatar is one of the smallest nations in the region, it acts big and dares to take onambitious projects,” said the artist. “From the 2006 Asian Games in Doha and the World Cupin 2022, to the Qatar Museum Authority and Mathaf in particular, Qatar repeatedly makesappearances on the world stage. It is exciting to be part of this larger context with Saraab.”“The new commissions reflect my relationship with Arab culture, and draw from therelationship between my hometown Quanzhou with the Arab world,” the artist continued.
  • 2. “These works embody my attention and contemplations throughout the years on therelationship between the Middle East and the world, as well as my sentiments and confusionstowards the Arab world. Through the collaboration and exchange with volunteers in makinggunpowder drawings and by opening the creative process to the public, I had the chance towork together with young artists, and discuss how to transform traditional mediums andcultural symbols into contemporary concepts and art forms. The past works and documentaryvideos on the second floor of the museum form a mini retrospective that attempts to sharewith the Arab audience my growth as an artist in a multicultural world.”DECEMBER 5 OUTDOOR EXPLOSION EVENT: BLACK CEREMONYBlack Ceremony, a progression of ten different scenes exploring themes of death andhomecoming, will explode over a vast stretch of open land near Mathaf on Monday,December 5 starting at 3pm. As envisioned by the artist, the explosion will appear like dropsof ink splattered across the sky, instantaneously creating black blossoms, followed bythunderous noise. 8,300 shells embedded with computer microchips will then ignite to form ablack pyramid that stands above the earth, as if a wordless tombstone. Black Ceremony willtake place near the museum (shuttles will run from Mathaf) and is open to the public. Video ofBlack Ceremony will be presented as part of the exhibition, alongside six other videos ofprevious explosion events.MUSEUM PLAZA AND ATRIUM: HOMECOMINGSaraab begins outside the museum with the new work Homecoming, an installation of 62rocks from Quanzhou that winds its way into the museum’s atrium. Arabic inscriptions copiedfrom the tombstones of Quanzhou’s historic Arab community have been carved into eachrock, which visitors encounter one by one as they enter the museum. The journey of therocks from Quanzhou to Doha symbolizes a homecoming for Muslims in distant lands fromthe past millennium, offering solace and closure to their long awaited voyage home.GROUND FLOOR GALLERIES: NEW WORKSA series of new works made for Saraab are installed on the ground floor of the museum.Reflecting upon Chinese and Arab culture, works trace the maritime route from ancientArabia to Quanzhou, echo botanical patterns seen in Islamic decorative art and manuscripts,reflect on ancient icons and traditions, and in the case of gunpowder drawings, provide ameasured tension between destruction and creation, reality and fiction. In keeping withMathaf’s focus on education and broader contextualization, Saraab includes a documentaryabout the making of these commissioned works, as well as sketches and renderings. The three boats of Endless rock gently in the water: two Qatari houri boats and a traditional Chinese fishing boat from Quanzhou. Their continuous swaying in place suggests simultaneously the possibility of travel and staying at rest. The work reflects both a comparison between different coastal regions and symbolic swings in the artist’s state of mind. Route consists of a gunpowder drawing lying horizontally across a rocky surface resembling desert plains. In the style of woodblock print, the artist used gunpowder to create a modern map in the format of ancient nautical charts. Miniature Series includes eight distinct gunpowder drawings on paper mounted on panels featuring rich, decorative patterns that take after Islamic miniature paintings and the embroidery on Qatari womens abayas. Like all of the new gunpowder drawings created for Saraab, these works were made in collaboration with volunteers in Doha.
  • 3. Flying Together is an installation of a lifelike camel and 27 falcons, two icons of Arab culture, suspended in the gallery. Fragile, a three-metre high by eighteen-metre long porcelain mural of 480 individual panels, marks the first time the artist has incorporated porcelain on a large scale into his work with gunpowder, and is the first time he has used gunpowder for calligraphy. The Dehua porcelain used was manufactured near the artists hometown and historically traded by sea to the Arab world. The dreamlike video installation Al-Shaqab invites viewers to sit casually, majlis- style, on carpets and cushions made out of sadu weavings typical of Qatar to consider how Arabian horses are viewed and valued as a cultural symbol, and the ways in which different cultures interact with animals. The film was shot on location at Al-Shaqab, the Emir’s state-of-the-art breeding and training facility. Ninety-Nine Horses is a mirage-like installation consisting of a four-by-eighteen- meter gunpowder drawing of Arabian horses galloping across the desert towards a searing sun, with 99 small, gold-leafed horses floating mid-air in front of the paper, dappling the surface with shadows.UPSTAIRS GALLERIES: WORKS FROM 1990–2011The second floor of the museum features a diverse selection of works from the past 20 yearsthat demonstrate the evolution of Cai’s creative concepts over time and the importance heplaces on the artistic process, including collaborations with the local community to create site-specific works.Videos and slideshows document past explosion events such as the Black Fireworks series(2001-2008), created by the artist in response to 9/11, social art projects such as Man, Eagleand Eye in the Sky (2003), a collaborative project of painted kites flown in the SaharaDesert, and installations. Many pieces are conceptual precursors to the new works in Saraab.Other works on view include Impression Oil Drawings (2001-2002), ten oil on canvaspaintings of explosion events sketched from memory and video footage; two Issey Miyakegarments ignited with gunpowder to create dragon-shaped scorch marks (1998); sixteendrawings on paper and porcelain (1990–2011) and a self-igniting book titled Danger Book:Suicide Fireworks (2008) that explore the use of gunpowder in the artist’s work.PUBLICATIONA bilingual Arabic-English catalogue accompanies the exhibition, featuring contributions byWu Youxiong and Abdel Wahid al-Mawlawi, a discussion of Sino-Arab histories by DeenaChalabi and Jacqueline Armijo, a curatorial essay by Wassan Al-Khudhairi, and amonographic essay on the artist by Yuko Hasegawa. It includes never-before-publishedimages of early works, as well as a full documentation of all of the new pieces created forSaraab. The catalogue will be published by Skira in early 2012.
  • 4. ABOUT CAI GUO-QIANGCai Guo-Qiang was born in 1957 in Quanzhou, Fujian Province, China, and was trained instage design at the Shanghai Theater Academy. His work has since crossed multiplemediums within art, including drawing, installation, video and performance art. While living inJapan from 1986 to 1995, he explored the properties of gunpowder in his drawings, aninquiry that eventually led to his experimentation with explosives on a massive scale and tothe development of his signature explosion events. Drawing upon Eastern philosophy andcontemporary social issues as a conceptual basis, these projects and events aim to establishan exchange between viewers and the larger universe around them, utilizing a site-specific thapproach to culture and history. Cai was awarded the Golden Lion at the 48 Venice th thBiennale in 1999, the 7 Hiroshima Art Prize in 2007, and the 20 Fukuoka Asian CulturePrize in 2009. He was Director of Visual and Special Effects for the opening and closingceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. In 2008, he was the subject of aretrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. In fall 2010, Cai createdOdyssey for the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Installed as part of the museum’s ongoingPortal Project, it is one of his largest gunpowder drawings to date. He currently lives andworks in New York.ABOUT MATHAFThe first institution of its kind in the region, Mathaf offers an Arab perspective on modern andcontemporary art and supports creativity, promotes dialogue and inspires new ideas. The5,500-square-meter (59,000-square-foot) Museum, located in a former school building inDoha’s Education City, has a collection that offers a rare comprehensive overview of modernArab art, representing the major trends and sites of production spanning the 1840s throughthe present. Mathaf presents exhibitions that situate the Arab world in relation to a larger artcontext and also offers programs that engage the local and international community,encourage research and scholarship and contribute to the cultural landscape of the Gulfregion, the Middle East, the Arab Diaspora and beyond.ABOUT QATAR MUSEUMS AUTHORITYEstablished in 2005 by His Highness the Emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani to combinethe resources of all museums in the State of Qatar, Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) is agovernmental organization whose remit is to develop museums and cultural institutions andprovide an effective system for collecting, protecting, preserving and interpreting historic sites,monuments and artifacts. Under the leadership of its Chairperson H.E. Sheikha Al Mayassa,QMA is transforming the State of Qatar into a cultural hub of the Middle East. The Museum ofIslamic Art, inaugurated in 2008, is the Authority’s flagship project. The organization wonfurther global acclaim with the December 2010 opening of Mathaf: Arab Museum of ModernArt. QMA’s goal of becoming a “global leader in the world of museums, art and heritage” willbe advanced in the coming years with ambitious, world-class projects, including the JeanNouvel-designed National Museum of Qatar. For further information, please visitwww.qma.org.qa.Join the conversation on Twitter with @MathafModern and use hashtag #MathafModern.twitter.com/MathafModernfacebook.com/MathafModernyoutube.com/MathafModernFor more information about Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art,please visit www.saraab.mathaf.org.qa.
  • 5. - end -For further information, please contact:Omar Chaikhouni, Qatar Museums Authority+974.4422.4608 / mchaikhouni@qma.org.qaFederica Zuccarini, Qatar Museums Authority+974.4422.4541 / fzuccarini@qma.org.qaAmanda Domizio, Ruder Finn Arts & Communications Counselors+1.212.583.2798 / domizioa@ruderfinn.com