Inopportune: Stage One, Cai Guo Qiangâ€™s installation depicting a car doing a back flip from the Guggenheimâ€™s lobby to the top of the ramp, is so stupefying that I sat beneath it for half an hour before wondering just how it defied gravity, and getting anxious that it might come crashing down. A serious contender for the most audacious work to ever grace the atrium, Caiâ€™s installation is bound to be a big draw for the Guggenheim. Speaking at Thursdayâ€™s press preview, the artist was lightly ironic about his installationâ€™s unintentional effects. â€œYesterday I saw Guggenheim people had started making a poster of it to sell in the museum store,â€ Cai said with a soft smile. â€œI am sure they will make a lot of money on it.â€
If not for Caiâ€™s calm and dignified demeanor, it might be easy to dismiss him as a showman. The taxidermy, the suspension cables, the antique boat swimming in broken china, the display of â€œblack fireworksâ€ in the middle of the afternoon documented on video â€“ these are the theatrics that the art-viewing elite is trained to regard with mild distaste. But Cai, the first Chinese artist to get full-rotunda treatment in the Guggenheim, comes from a country where art is supposed be big, bright and beautiful, a country that has put a premium on grand scale and sweeping gestures for the last few generations. The most modest work in the show, a scroll painting of tigers by the artistâ€™s father, an amateur artist, hints at Caiâ€™s interpretation of Frank Lloyd Wrightâ€™s spiraling hive as a scroll unfurling upward. His concept of the space displays his aptitude for wedding his vision with institutions of Western modernity and drawing out their â€œChineseâ€ aspects â€“ a talent he has consistently used to demonstrate the potential for theatrics and spectacle at the core of installation art.
VIDEO by Alexandra Lerman – the Arts and Culture editor of ScribeMedia.Org. She is also a video artist, VJ and the founder of Ambitious Outsiders Collective.
ARTICLE by Brian Droitcour – a writer, translator and art critic. He recently relocated from Moscow to New York.
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