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Wolves at the Deutsche Guggenheim
Cai Guo-Qiang’s spectacular installation "Head On"

Vortex, 2006,
Sammlung Deutsche Bank,
Foto: Hiro Ihara, Courtesy of Cai Studio

99 wolves, an exploding house, and a huge drawing with gunpowder – the three-part installation Head On by Cai Guo-Qiang was made as a commissioned piece for the Deutsche Bank Collection in Berlin. In it, the Chinese art star, who realizes his elaborate projects all over the globe, reflects on the history and present of the German capital. Cai’s first major show in Germany can be seen in the exhibition hall at Unter den Linden starting on August 26.

Cai Guo-Qiang Making of Vortex, 2006,
Foto: Hiro Ihara, Courtesy Cai Studio

A loud bang and flying sparks accompanied the making of Cai Guo-Qiang’s gunpowder drawing for his exhibition Head On at the Deutsche Guggenheim. Clouds of grey smoke and the smell of sulfur filled the atrium of the Deutsche Bank building at Unter den Linden. The artist’s assistants immediately rushed towards the huge sheet of Japanese paper spread out on the floor of the atrium, still weighed down with stones and covered in stencils and cardboard.

Cai Guo-Qiang,
Foto Donald Milne,
©Sammlung Deutsche Bank

As the upper layers were quickly cleared away and the last embers on the paper carefully extinguished, Cai’s gunpowder drawing “Vortex,” made with a combination of precise planning and the incalculable force of the explosion, became visible for the first time. In the work, silhouettes of a pack of wolves can be seen forming a huge spiral. Together with the video work “Illusion II” and a pack of 99 wolves tearing through the exhibition hall, the 9 x 4 meter-sized drawing is a central part of the installation “Head On,” which can be seen from August 26 through October 15 2006 at the Deutsche Guggenheim.

Illusion II: Explosion Project, 2006, Berlin,
Foto: Hiro Ihara
Courtesy Cai Studio

The three-part installation, developed for his first major exhibition in Germany, reflects the main aspects of Cai’s oeuvre; at the same time, it frames a thematic reference to the history and present of Berlin. Like all previous presentations of work groups from the Deutsche Bank Collection, Head On arose in close collaboration with the artist. Cai specially conceived all three parts of the installation for the exhibition location, while the video and gunpowder drawing Vortex were produced on site in Berlin.

Ideenskizze für Vortex, 2005 © Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai was in the German capital for the first time in October 2005 and visited major places of German history there, including Checkpoint Charlie and the remnants of the Berlin Wall as well as the Soviet Monument and the Topography of Terror memorial. Inspired by the omnipresence of German history, he made his first sketches for the exhibition, after which a concept developed out of these ideas that contains references to the various media that Cai Cuo-Qiang employs as well as addresses the city in terms of content and the exhibition space itself in terms of form.

Aufbau der Installation "Head On", 2006, im Deutsche Guggenheim
Foto: Hiro Ihara, Courtesy Cai Studio

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