La maison rouge will be closing its doors in 2018. For fourteen years, this contemporary art foundation, created by Antoine de Galbert in 2004, consistently presented remarkable exhibitions to unanimous acclaim. The Pinault Collection was proud to contribute works on several occasions, including in its final exhibition “Flight, or the dream of flying." in which <i>Hometown Sky Ladder</i> by Cai Guo-Qiang (born in Quanzhou, China, in 1957) was presented.
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<span class="lieu">La Maison Rouge / Paris</span>
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<span class="title">Cai Guo-Qiang</span><br>
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Director of La maison rouge
<span class="alinea"></span><i>Hometown Sky Ladder</i> is impressive, not only because of its scale—a sheet of traditional Japanese paper, four meters high and three meters wide—but also because of the way in which it was created: igniting gunpowder laid on the paper itself. This work occupies a unique position in Cai’s work: it retraces the completion of his most ambitious project, <i>Sky Ladder</i>, for which the artist built a ladder out of fire that reached from the earth up into the sky, existing for a brief moment before disappearing into the night.
<span class="alinea"></span>After twenty years of stubborn persistence and failed attempts, Cai succeeded, in June 2015, in creating this “explosive event.” It took place in secret, outside a fishing village on the island of Huiyu, near Cai’s hometown, which in the work on paper is represented by sailboats, with masts, seen in the bottom left corner. Suspended from a helium balloon, the rope ladder, lined with golden fireworks, stretched five hundred meters above the ocean into the sky. <i>Hometown Sky Ladder</i> is Cai’s homage to his grandmother, with whom he was very close, and who passed away a few weeks after the performance.
<span class="alinea"></span>The use of gunpowder, the secrets of which he studied in China and Japan, has become Cai’s trademark: he is best known for the elaborate pyrotechnic projects he has created across the world, including in Beijing for the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics and in Paris for the 2013 Nuit Blanche. During the Cultural Revolution, Cai and his father, a famous Chinese intellectual and calligrapher, were obliged to burn every book in the family library, books that Cai’s father considered would one day be the key to his son’s fortune. Ultimately, it was fire, rather than books, that liberated Cai and made him famous. Considering pyrotechnics as catharsis, Cai early on moved away from trying to control the results of his processes, emphasizing instead their contingency, their unexpected appearance.
<span class="alinea"></span>Whether in monumental works on paper or in aerial performances, Cai starts a dialogue with forces that are beyond us, to reveal the invisible and the impermanent so present in Chinese philosophy.