February 19, 2018

Cai Guo-Qiang at ’Museo del Prado’

Cai Guo-Qiang Begins Month-Long On-Site Creation at the Prado Museum for The Spirit of Painting

The concept of this exhibition, which opens to the public on 25 October, arises from the artist’s ongoing relationship with El Greco’s unique artistic figure and spirituality and proposes a dialogue with artists in the Museum’s collection: a dialogue in which Cai Guo-Qiang has been able to further his engagement with his predecessors, a list that includes Titian, El Greco, Velázquez, Rubens, and Goya, which will converge in time in a spiritual exploration of painting.

In addition, Isabel Coixet, one of Spain’s most international filmmakers, will be directing a documentary produced by the Museo del Prado that introduces the viewer to the artist’s creative process and the production of the works for this exhibition.

Cai Guo-Qiang (born Quanzhou, Fujian Province, China, 1957) will transform the Hall of Realms into his studio where he will produce a group of works inspired by the memory of this historic room, formerly part of the Buen Retiro palace, and by a dialogue with the old masters represented in the Museum. This artist’s residency, which will take place during the weeks prior to the exhibition’s inauguration, will culminate with the creation of The Spirit of Painting, a monumental painting measuring approximately 18 metres long.

Both this work and the others by Cai Guo-Qiang, also to be made with ignited gunpowder, will feature in the monographic exhibition The Spirit of Painting. Cai Guo-Qiang at the Prado, to be shown in the Prado’s Jerónimos Building. Visitors can appreciate the dialogue that Cai Guo-Qiang has maintained with the spirit of El Greco from his early years as an artist to the present through a selection of works which, in addition to those mentioned above, will also include various early paintings. These take the form of recollections of the journey he undertook in 2009 in the footsteps of El Greco (from his native island of Crete to Venice and Madrid before concluding in Toledo), as well as a new triptych inspired by that artist.

The Spirit of Painting originated from the artist’s longstanding dialogue with the spirit of El Greco. Over the past two years, working with the Prado’s experts and studying its research expanding into an interrogation of the past, present, and future of painting.

The result is an attempt to reclaim the spirit of painting: the artist’s sensibility, craftsman-like aptitude, and sense of adventure on the canvas. Through The Spirit of Painting, Cai aims to discover his own spirit of painting, and to think about ways forward for contemporary art overall.

The on-site process will culminate on October 23, when, at dusk, Cai will explode the exhibition’s centerpiece: the 18-meter The Spirit of Painting. These works will join a selection of other gunpowder paintings created over the last two years, to be exhibited inside the Prado’s Jerónimos Building.

For the creation of his new paintings for the exhibition Cai Guo-Qiang will be making his first use of local gunpowder from Valencia.

The themes and artworks in the four exhibition rooms naturally form a progressive rhythm that mirrors the Chinese compositional formula: Rise, Development, Shift, and Unification.


The exceptional nature of this exhibition will be accompanied by the gaze of filmmaker Isabel Coixet, one of Spain’s most internationally acclaimed directors. She will be offering a portrait of the artist’s creative process and his production of the works to be displayed in the Museum’s Jerónimos Building.

Filming will take place in New York where Cai Guo-Qiang lives and has his studio, on Long Island and in Madrid during his residency in the Hall of Realms, as well as in Valencia and Toledo.

The documentary, filmed in 4K, will introduce visitors to the exhibition to Cai Guo-Qiang’s creative process through the personal gaze of one of Spain’s most internationally acclaimed directors.