MFA Houston Recruits Cai Guo-Qiang for a Big Bang

MFA Houston Recruits Cai Guo-Qiang for a Big Bang
For two decades, Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang has been making large-scale drawings with little more than paper, gunpowder, and a flame, often created in public performances in front of large audiences. Now he has been asked by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to make what might be his largest, most explosive drawing yet, a 162 by 10 feet work titled "Odyssey" that will adorn the museum’s new Arts of China Gallery when it opens on October 17.

Cai has said that he will create the piece in a 25,000-square-foot warehouse in Houston in early October, with the aid of local volunteers. The temporary studio will also be open to the public on Tuesday, October 5, and Wednesday, October 6, though capacity is limited and those hoping to take a peek will need to register for tickets online, at mfah.org, starting Monday, September 20.

"Cai Quo-Qiang is a master of the poetic on a grand scale," director of the MFA Houston Peter C. Marzio said in a statement. He added that he believes Cai’s project will foster a "dialogue between artworks from different time periods within the galleries." Christine Starkman, the museum’s curator for Asian art, was similarly sanguine, saying in a statement that Cai’s "work takes us from the world of the mythic, the source of creative life, to the modern life of China and the world around us."

The commission is part of an MFA Houston initiative called the Portals Project, which aims to foster the creation of new work by contemporary artists for galleries devoted to Korean, Indian, Chinese, and Japanese art. Korean artist Do-Ho Suh has been tapped to create a piece for the museum’s Arts of Korea Gallery, which will be unveiled in January 2011.