installation view of ‘endless’ as part of cai guo-qiang ‘saraab’ solo exhibition at the mathaf arab museum of modern art
all images courtesy of the mathaf arab museum of modern art
he mathaf: arab museum of modern art presents ‘saraab’ (meaning ‘mirage’ in arabic), the first solo exhibition of chinese artist cai guo-qiang in the middle east.
curated by wassan al-khudhairi, the show features 17 newly commissioned pieces,
highlighting the little known connection between the asian and middle eastern cultures which date back to the ancient silk road. cai explores historical iconography from both regions presented on paper, canvas and porcelain works.
the new works are exhibited on the ground floor galleries. the pieces echo botanical patterns seen in islamic decorative art and manuscripts, reflecting on the ancient icons and traditions. gunpowder drawings provide a sense of tension between destruction and creation, an idea that carries significance for both cultures. a documentary about the making of the commissioned works, including process videos of the sketches and renderings accompanies the show and keeps with the museums focus on education and broader contextualization.
for ‘endless’, two qatari houri boats and a traditional chinese fishing boat, transported from quanzhou, were placed on gently rocking water. the room is enveloped in fog, creating the sense of distance, as it simultaneously suggests both travel and rest.
‘ninety-nine horses’ features 99 small gold-leafed horses floating mid-air infront of a 4 x 8 meter (13 x 26 feet) gunpowder drawing.
the illustration itself has arabian horses galloping across the desert towards a searing sun.
detail of ’99 horses’
‘route’ uses gunpowder to draw a modern map in the format of ancient nautical charts. the rocks underneath render the surface
smooth but uneven, an homage to the desert plains.
‘fragile’ is a 3 x 8 meter (10 x 26 feet) textured porcelain mural, marking the first time cai has used gunpowder for calligraphy.
‘al shaqab’ is a video installation shot at the emir’s horse breading and training facility ‘al shaqab’, the short film invites viewers
to sit majlis-style and consider arabian horses as a cultural symbol.
‘homecoming’ at the mathaf courtyard
‘homecoming’ is a series of stones from quanzhou in which arabic inscriptions of tombstones are inscribed
from quanzhou’s historic arab community. the rocks wind their way from the museum’s courtyard into the atrium, symbolizing
‘homecoming’ at the atrium
rendering of ‘wreath’ from black ceremony
outside the museum walls, cai planned his signature explosions as part of the exhibit opening. ‘black ceremony’ is a progression of 10 detonations near the city of mathaf. 8, 300 shells ignited to form a black pyramid as well as colorful circles,
triangles and rectangles; shapes which hold significant meaning for the arabs. the video of the event is presented as part of the displayed works.