Go See – Shanghai: Cai Guo-Qiang ‘Peasant da Vincis’ at the Rockbund Art Museum through July 25th, 2010

May 23rd, 2010

On May 4, the exhibition titled “Peasant da Vincis” curated by the renowned American-Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang opened in Shanghai. “Peasant da Vincis,”  featuring a combination of inventions by Chinese peasants and works by the artist that explore the subject of human creativity. It is also the inaugural show for Rockbund Art Museum, the first contemporary art museum in the historic riverfront area of Shanghai, known as the Bund. Architect David Chipperfield redesigned the interior to create a contemporary art museum in the historic building that originally housed one of the first museums in China.

More images and text after the jump…

Installation view . All images via Rockbund Museum unless otherwise noted

On display at Rockbund Museum are ingenious inventions of Chinese peasants, including homemade flying machines, submarines, and robots that will occupy the entire museum. A giant glowing UFO will be spinning on the roof of the museum.

The exhibition also features documentary interviews with the creators and the chronology of their inventions for the past forty years. Cai Guo-Qiang included in the design of the exhibition a series of the early Soviet space expedition films that expose the absurdities and personal sacrifice behind the success of the space exploration program.

Installation View

“Peasant da Vincis” includes active robot production that mimics works of Jackson Pollock, Yves Klein, and Damien Hirst.

Yves Klein’s living brush, 2010 by Cai Guo-Qiang

A submarine produced by Chinese peasants via Wall Street Journal

Taking place simultaneously with the World Expo Shangai and examining the theme “Better City, Better Life,” the exhibition is an important contribution to Cai Guo-Qiang’ s interdisciplinary practice , where innovation, experiment, and risk are the key concepts. The show is on view until July 25th.

Outside of the museum, slogans by the artist ” Never learned how to land” “What’s important is not whether you can fly” and “Peasants – making a better city and a better life” are painted in giant Chinese letters.

Cai Guo-Qiang is one of the most well-known and influential Chinese contemporary artists, and represented his country at the Venice Biennale in 1999 with his project Venice’s Rent Collection Courtyard, a performance during which he had artisans recreate a famous work of Socialist Realist propaganda sculpture. The artist was born in 1957 in Quanzhou City, Fujian, China. He was trained in stage design at the Shanghai Theater Academy from 1981 to 1985. Cai initially began working with gunpowder to foster spontaneity and confront the suppressive, controlled artistic tradition and social climate in China. While living in Japan from 1986 to 1995, Cai explored the properties of gunpowder in his drawings, an inquiry that eventually led to his experimentation with explosives on a massive scale and the development of his signature “explosion events,” artistically choreographed shows incorporating fireworks and other pyrotechnics. In 1995, he moved to New York with a grant from the New York-based Asian Cultural Council, an international organization to promote artistic exchanges between Asian countries and the United States. Cai Guo-Qiang was selected as a finalist for the 1996 Hugo Boss Prize and won the 48th Venice Biennale International Golden Lion Prize and 2001 CalArts/Alpert Award in the Arts. In 2008, the artist had a large-scale mid-career retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York that subsequently traveled to the National Art Museum of China in Beijing and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. He also gained widespread attention for organizing a fireworks show to mark the opening of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Relevant Links:
Exhibition web-page [The Rockbund Museum of Art]
Peasant Inventors Go to Town [The Wall Street Journal]
Letters from China [The New Yorker]