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I Want to Believe: A Conversation with Cai Guo-Qiang
by Jan Garden Castro

Cai Guo-Qiang’s work confronts propaganda, both Eastern and Western, head-on. Venice’s Rent Collection Courtyard (re-created for his retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York as New York’s Rent Collection Courtyard) won the Golden Lion Award at the 1999 Venice Biennale. The life-sized sculptures were modeled after the original 1965 Maoist tableau showing landlords brutalizing workers. Cai’s version, created on site by figurative sculptors invited from China, including Long Xu Li, one of the sculptors from the original ’65 project, was purposely unfired, and the 60 or so tons of clay cracked during the course of the show. Even though this work was at first hotly criticized and debated by members of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute and select members of the mainland Chinese art establishment, Cai is back in favor—as a core member of the creative team and Art Director of Visual and Special Effects for the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. “Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe,” the Guggenheim exhibition, opens at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing in August 2008—just in time for the Olympics. Cai’s rehabilitation signals a new era for freedom of ideas in China, but, as in the United States, notions of freedom are not necessarily the same as a country’s policies and laws. After its Beijing showing, “I Want to Believe” will move to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in the spring of 2009.

Inopportune: Stage One, 2004. Nine cars and
sequences multi-channel light tubes, view of exhibition
copy installed at the Guggenheim.

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