In the Volcano: Cai Guo-Qiang and Pompeii

February 21st at 1pm
A unique explosion event by artist Cai Guo-Qiang leading to
February 22nd
Opening of asolo exhibition at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples
IN THE VOLCANO: Cai Guo-Qiang and Pompeii
On view from FEBRUARY 22ndto May 20th2019
Press preview 4:30pm
Exhibition opening 6:30pm

February 21st. An explosion of gunpowder and color smoke in Pompeii’s Amphitheatre will reignite the tragic and vital dynamics of the eruption of Mt. Vesuviusin a timeless, poetic journey that tells the story of the destruction and rebirth of Pompeii.

Artist Cai Guo-Qiangwill execute Explosion Studio in the arena of the Amphitheatre at 1 PMon February 21s. An artistic explosion whose different phaseswill act as metaphor of not only the tragedy that devastated Pompeii but also its remarkable discovery. Explosion Studio will bring to light exceptional historical moments and archaeological finds.

The works created from this explosion event will subsequently be “excavated” and transferred to the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (MANN) for the exhibition opening on February 22ndat 6:30 PM, until May 20th, 2019.Spread throughout the museum—from the Farnese Collection to the frescoes section, from the atrium to the mosaic collection—Cai Guo-Qiang’s works will narrate the enduring link between past and present, and between Eastern and Western culture.

The exhibition is curated by Jérôme Neutres. Theprojectis co-hosted by the Archaeological Park of Pompeii and the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.In the Volcano is made possible with support of Morra Foundation.

With this multifaceted artistic engagement, artist Cai Guo-Qiang continueshis work in Italy after the success of his firework performance in Florence (City of Flowers in the Sky) and the solo show Flora Commedia: Cai Guo-Qiang at the Uffizias part of Cai Guo-Qiang’sbroader project,An individual’s Journey through Western ArtHistory.

Explosion Studio

The explosion at the Amphitheatre of Pompeii will be a one-of-its-kind historical event. At the center of the Amphitheatre, canvases of different sizes and copies of objects linked to daily life and art in Pompeii will be placed on a32-by-6-meter canvas, supported by a platform.These objects include reproductions of sculptures from the MANN collections, such as the Venus Callipigia, the Farnese Hercules and Atlas, and the bust of Pseudo-Seneca.

Explosion Studiowill unfold in three parts. I.Beginning with the evocative chapter “The Fabric of Civilization” - small explosions will disrupt the artefacts arranged on the canvas, marking it violently and with the same ruthlessness that hasleft its mark on human lives at the time of the volcanic explosion of the Vesuvio.II. After a brief pause, coloreddaytime fireworks lined up along the canvas point towards the sky as though an unrelenting volcanic eruption. The fireworks will theatrically embody a heavy “Sigh,” that of the rise and fall of a human civilization. This occasion marks the artist’s first attempt to “paint” on canvas with fireworks. III.Then,“Excavation” will begin –amid the last fumes, the artist and his team will bring to light the “archaeological ruins.” The exploded canvas will be filled with imageries and colors inspired by the collection of objects discovered in Pompeii now in the MANN collection.

"I borrow from Massimo Osanna, to whom we owe the promotion of this project, the idea that Pompeii is a place of the contemporary." - declares the interim Director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, Alfonsina Russo. “Pompeii, suspended in time, has always captured the imagination and creative spirit of artists of all ages, reminding us that the tragic event of 79 AD impressed itself upon collective memory for eternity, not only for its unique history and testimony of an era, but also because of the profound sense of fragility and impotence we are constantlyfaced with."

Exhibition at the MANN

Works created with Explosion Studioin the Amphitheatrewill be exhibited in the MANN exhibitionIn the Volcano. Canvases and objects excavated from the explosion eventin Pompeii will be placed within the many permanent collection galleries, along with gunpowder paintings created in New York.

The exploded 32-meter long canvas, stretching out among the arches and vaults in the Farnese Sculpture Hall like a ceiling fresco, displays variegated images of the exploded paintings and objects and reflects the entirety of the exhibition. There will be many surprisesfor those who follow the path traced by CaiGuo-Qiang through the Museum’s collection.In addition to the masterpieces of ancient statuary—copies of the Farnese Herculesand the Venere Callipigia—reinterpreted by Cai through the colors of gunpowder, vases and terracotta objects will be displayed on simple platforms, evoking the everyday life of the Ancient Romans.A boat, anchored to the wall and placed alongside the frescoes of Pompeii, will disclose the timeless secret of an ongoing artistic journey. The evanescent traces of gunpowder on canvas will evoke references to the figures of classical iconography, just as the presence of the extraordinary installations in the various rooms will invite reflection on the continuity between past and present.

"Thanks to the work of Cai Guo-Qiang, the sense of folklore, the atmosphere, and the power of Eastern traditions are broughtto the galleries of the MANN, showinghowthe sharing of culturederives from a similar ability to observe the world with the curiosities of the Ancients”, saysMuseum Director, Paolo Giulierini.

“When Vesuvius erupted, burying the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, nature created a masterpiece, taking catastrophe as its medium and preserving the monumental heritage as a time-space capsule…”saysCai Guo-Qiang.“The repressed energy of the volcano built up until it could no longer be contained, leading to an unbridled explosion! A similar natural state can also be found in human nature and our social condition, and in the harmony with nature in my decades of work with gunpowder... For this project, I tried to let the hormones take the lead, to create something with a touch of ferocity, at a time when people often strive to be too civilized, carefully polishing, ‘cleaning up’ their works and even the concepts that attempt to explain the meaning of their work. Can I not simply stage an uncontrolled eruption, recalling the volcano and the day of judgment of Pompeii? A completely unexpected event, something that appears right on our path!" 

Jérôme Neutres, curator of the exhibition, adds: “Pompeii is more than a museum, it is the city of images, with its houses covered from floor to ceiling with frescoes and mosaics. The city seemed to live with art. For Cai Guo-Qiang, dialogue with Pompeii involves this world of images and its imagination. For this exhibition, Cai Guo-Qiang has used new creative tools, innovatinghis method using glass, mirrors, marble, ceramics, plaster ... In the culture and artistic history of Naples and Campania, the artist has found new media for hisexplosion paintings. This dialogue takes shape in the scenography of the exhibition, setting up Cai Guo-Qiang’sworks within the collections, creating a sort of treasure hunt among the works from Pompeii, moving back and forth between past and present,with mirror effects between the aesthetics of first-century Pompeii and the eminently contemporary art of Cai Guo-Qiang.”

 The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue (published by Silvana Editoriale in English and Italian; followed by a Chinese edition published by TCREATIVEMEDIA).A documentary video directed by Shanshan Xia (available for public viewing at MANN), will accompany the exhibition.

About the artist Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo-Qiang(b.1957, Quanzhou, China) trained at the Shanghai Theatre Academy.He has worked with a variety of artistic media including drawing, installation, video and performance. During his stay in Japan, from 1986 to 1995, he explored the properties of gunpowder in his drawings, undertakinga journey of research that led to the development of today’sexplosion events. Drawing upon Eastern philosophy and contemporary social issues as a

Cai Guo-Qiangat the Amphitheater of Pompeii, 2019. Photo by Sang Luo, courtesy of Cai Studio

conceptual basis, his artworks respond to culture and history and establish an exchange between viewers and the larger universe around them. His explosion art and installations are imbued with a force that transcends the two-dimensional plane to engage with society and nature.

 Cai Guo-Qiangwas awarded the Golden Lion at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, the Culture Award at the 20th Asian Culture Prize in Fukuoka in 2009, and the Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation Awards in 2015. He won the Bonnefanten Prize for Contemporary Art (BACA) in 2016. In 2012, he was among the five winners of the prestigious PraemiumImperiale, which recognizes lifetime achievement in the arts across categories not covered by the Nobel Prize. In addition, he was named as one of the five artists to receive the first U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts for his outstanding commitment to international cultural exchange. In 2008, Cai served as Director of Visual and Special Effects for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

His solo exhibitions and projects includeCai Guo-Qiang on the Roof: Transparent Monumentat the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2006 and his retrospectiveI Want to Believe, which opened at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York in 2008.

His first solo exhibition in Brazil, Da Vincis do Povo, toured across three cities in 2013. Travelling from Brasilia to Sao Paulo before reaching his final destination in Rio de Janeiro, it was the most visited exhibition by a living artist worldwide, with one million visitors. In June 2015, Cai created the explosion event Sky Ladderon Huiyu Island, Quanzhou, China, which became the subject of the 2016 documentary produced by Netflix,Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang, directed by Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald.

Cai Guo-Qiang: Fireflies wasthe artist’s largest public art project in the United States in the past decade, launched in Philadelphia in September 2017. His most recent explosion event City of Flowers in the Sky was held in Florence in November 2018. Recent solo exhibitions includeCai Guo-Qiang: Octoberat the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow (2017);The Spirit of Painting. Cai Guo-Qiang at the Pradoat the Museo del Prado, Madrid (2017) and Flora Commedia: Cai Guo-Qiang at the Uffizi, at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence(2018).

He currently lives and works in New York.