Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab

  • Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art |
  • 5 Dec 2011 – 26 May 2012

Cai Guo-Qiang's art is explosive.

He devised the spectacular firework display for the Beijing Olympics, and he chose to inaugurate this, his first show in the Middle East, with a daytime explosion event in the desert which filled the sky with colour.Many of the works in the exhibition itself were also created with gunpowder, which was used to burn delicate patterns and calligraphy into paper, fabric and porcelain.Saraab, which means 'mirage' in Arabic, explores the links between Cai's birthplace of Quanzhou in China and the Arab world, through 17 specially commissioned pieces. The artist had a childhood fascination with the Muslim cemetery in his hometown, the legacy of the maritime silk trade between the two regions. He draws on this memory in Homecoming, in which 62 rocks from Quanzhou, bearing inscriptions from these tombstones, wind their way from the museum plaza into the atrium, paying tribute to the Arab traders who died so far from home.The trade theme continues in Endless, a misty room containing three boats " one from China and two from Qatar " rocking in gently in water. In a neighbouring room Route consists of a gunpowder map drawing in the style of a woodblock print that resembles ancient nautical charts. Fragile is an 18 metre-long mural consisting of 480 individual panels of ornately sculpted white porcelain of the kind traditionally exported from Quanzhou, with the word 'fragile' in Arabic burnt across it.All these new works fill the ground floor, but upstairs there are drawings and videos relating to Cai's previous works, forming a kind of mini retrospective.The exhibition is testimony to Qatar's involvement in the contemporary art world. The Qatar Museum Authority is supporting the Damien Hirst exhibtion, which opens at Tate Modern on 4 April.


Venue & entry details

Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art Doha, Qatar

Entry details

What the critics say

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Cai, who dazzled millions with his fireworks display at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, collaborated with the Grucci family, behind the 4th of July fireworks in New York City, for the project.