Museum of Fine Arts Houston looking for student volunteers
to help with Houston Portal Project, Cai Guo-Qiang’s Odyssey

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Portal Project, Cai Guo-Qiang’s Odyssey needs student helpers.

 Photo by Seiji Toyonaga, Courtesy Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art
Cai Guo-Qiang producing a gunpowder drawing titled “Unmanned Nature,” Hiroshima, October 2008

Artist Cai Guo-Qiang (at left, in a portrait by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders) will create a permanent, site-specific installation for the museum’s new Arts of China galleries, which open in October 2010. The project — a monumental landscape mural to be created in a Houston warehouse just prior to installation and rendered by igniting a gunpowder drawing over multiple panels — will line the walls of the Ting Tsung and…
Wei Fong Chao Arts of China gallery and provide a contemporary context for the Chinese ceramics, bronzes, sculpture, and paintings dating from the 13th century B.C. to the 21st century. The mural will be the largest and most ambitious permanent project of Cai’s to date, and is the first in a series of contemporary commissions for the museum’s five Arts of Asia galleries. MFAH Asian art curator Christine Starkman will oversee the installation.

Artwork Specifications
Mr. Cai’s artwork, called a “gunpowder drawing”, will be comprised of a 51 meter (167 foot) series of panels, each panel 3.05 meters by 1.21 meters (10 ft. x 4 ft.) in dimension. These panels will be covered by Chinese calligraphy paper. Mr. Cai and his staff will then make a drawing on it. When the drawing is finished, the panels will be spread out on butcher paper over a large floor section of an empty warehouse. Over the course of approximately 3 days, Mr. Cai, his staff and selected volunteers will adjust the drawing, complete a cardboard stencil that mirrors the
drawing, cut it out, and lay it over the paper. On the “ignition day”, Mr. Cai will mix black powder with pigment and other non-combustible materials, sprinkle it over the stencils, and then ignite the powder. The resulting blast mark will create a series of images on the paper. After the detonation, the group of panels will be taken out of the warehouse and hung in the museum’s gallery.


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