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Mathias Poledna at the Portikus
Utopia Matters at the Deutsche Guggenheim
Hanging Out at a Museum: Cai Guo-Qiang in Taipei
Imi Knoebel in New York


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Hanging Out at a Museum
Cai Guo-Qiang in Taipei

The Cai Guo-Qiang retrospective entitled "I Want to Believe" at the Guggenheim Museum in New York drew record numbers of visitors. Now the exhibition is on view in an updated form at the Fine Arts Museum in Taipei. One of the highlights of the show is the installation “Head On”, on loan from the Deutsche Bank Collection.

"People say you can hang out with a pretty girl or hang out at an Internet café. In essence, the term ‘hang out’ means to enjoy something." This is how Cai Guo-Qiang explains the title of his show Hanging Out at a Museum. To heighten the wellness factor of the exhibition, he additionally installed his Cultural Melting Bath (1997), a kind of bathtub in which courageous visitors to the Fine Arts Museum in Taipei can make themselves comfortable. The Chinese herbs floating in the water are supposed to free the bather’s body and mind from possible impurities.

After the premiere at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, which attracted droves of visitors, the Chinese art star’s spectacular retrospective was on view as part of the cultural program of the 2008 Olympic Summer Games at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing and then traveled to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. In Taipei, it now fills the entire first and second floors of the Fine Arts Museum. The exhibition, the most comprehensive show that the museum has devoted to one single artist for 25 years, presents 35 works by the New York-based artist. This is Cai’s second collaboration with the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and his first exhibition inside the tall, spacious galleries of the museum. Through the positioning of the installation works in the architectural space, Cai looks back at his works and places them in new contexts, challenging and energizing the museum space in unusual ways. One of the highlights is Cai’s installation Head On, consisting of 99 life-sized wolves running in a high arc against a glass wall. The artist executed the energy-charged pack of predators in 2006 as a commissioned work for the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin. It is now on exhibit in Taipei as a loan from the Deutsche Bank Collection. Inspired by the Berlin Wall, it is viewed by the artist as a symbol of "universal human tragedy that results from this blind storming ahead, from the uncompromising way in which we seek to reach our goals", as Cai explained in an interview with ArtMag.

In Taipei, Cai intends to integrate the audience in the exhibition to a greater extent, and not only with his Cultural Melting Bath. The museum was able to obtain two Taiwanese celebrities as ambassadors for the show to ensure publicity: the popular model Lin Chi-ling and the TV moderator Tsai Kang-yong. In addition, Cai very consciously realized works in Huashan Culture Park in front of the public. Day and Night and Taroko Gorge are so-called gunpowder drawings, large drawings created from explosions of black powder on sheets of paper covered with stencils. Day and Night deals with the female nude while Toroko Gorge was inspired by Cai's recent visit to the spectacular landscape in eastern Taiwan. His preferred materials also include fireworks. Cai has realized "explosion events" in New York, Warsaw and London, and of course in Beijing, where his fireworks for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics were witnessed by hundreds of millions of TV viewers.

The artist, who was born in 1957, has carried out numerous projects around the world since the early 1990s. Cai curated the first Chinese Pavilion at the 2005 Venice Biennale. In his work, he undermines preconceived patterns of perception. Whether he realizes elaborate installations, executes his explosive art on paper, or illuminates the sky with colorful fountains, bridges or dragons, all of Cai Guo-Qiang’s works combine Chinese culture with Western, post-conceptual thought. They repeatedly call on viewers to engage with different realities and confront people with the contradictions of a globalized world.
Achim Drucks

Cai Guo-Qiang - Hanging Out at the Museum
Fine Arts Museum, Taipei
November 21, 2009 – February 2, 2010

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