Sitting in a Zen-inspired studio in a converted school building on the Lower East Side, the Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang bemoaned how his native country’s art is often squeezed between pronouncements of record auction prices and denouncements of China’s one-party political system when it is presented in the United States and to some extent Europe.
From the original Modern Art Notes Podcast air date, March 2013: “Alexandra Munroe co-curated the exhibition ‘Gutai: Splendid Playground’ at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York with co-curator was Ming Tiampo.”
This presentation was delivered in conjunction with a panel CHINA IN ASIA/ASIA IN CHINA: Imagining Asia in Contemporary Chinese Art, organized by Columbia University and Asia Art Archive in America. From the perspective of contemporary visual art practice, this panel interrogate the role of China in Asia and Asia in China from multiple perspectives.
Artists have a way of filling their work spaces with images and artifacts that have talismanic power, and Cai Guo-Qiang is no exception. A Chinese stone lion guards the entrance way to his large, garden studio in Manhattan’s East Village. A full-page newspaper advertisement reproducing a majestic El Greco painting is taped to a door, and a multipanel gunpowder drawing of an eagle with wings fully spread – Cai’s Man, Eagle, and Eye in the Sky: The Age of the Eagle (2004, fig. 80) – occupies a place of honor, watching over and blessing the studio’s activities. The most unexpected and arresting icon, however, is a poster depicting a UFO hovering in the sky above a bucolic landscape printed over with the words “I Want To Believe.”