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Watch: Cai Guo-Qiang Paints Firework “Flowers in the Sky” Over Florence

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Fujian artist Cai Guo-Qiang brought his daytime firework display to Florence this weekend, in celebration of a special exhibition of his work at the famous Uffizi Gallery. Cai, who is based in New York and New Jersey, reportedly took inspiration from the Renaissance and in particular Sandro Botticelli’s ‘Primavera‘ as he launched 50,000 fireworks over the historic Italian city.

Shrouding this scenic corner of Tuscany in colorful smoke, Cai’s 10-minute long work was entitled ‘City of Flowers in the Sky’ and was comprised of seven separate movements: “Thunder,” “God of the West Wind and Goddess of the Land”, “The Birth of Flora”, “Venus”, “Three Graces”, “Spiritual Garden” and “Red Lily”.

Wondering what that looks like in motion? Of course you are. Here’s the video:

Cai has something of a penchant for gunpowder, and his explosive works have graced everywhere from Shanghai to Edinburgh:

Not all of his works are painted in the skies however. Cai has also used small detonations to “paint canvasses” with colored gunpowder, something he demonstrated live at the Shanghai Power Station of Art a few years ago. He’s repeated the trick for the Uffizi, presenting a 24-meter long gunpowder work on hemp paper as part of his solo show.

Cai Guo-Qiang Florence Uffizi

Ignition of gunpowder painting Study of Birds, 2018; Photo by Tatsumi Masatoshi, courtesy Cai Studio

The Chinese artist’s exhibition at the Uffizi, entitled Flora Commedia after Florine poet Dante’s Divinia Commedia (The Divine Comedy), opens today (November 20) and runs until late February.

For more on Cai’s work, here’s a piece on RADII from last year about the Netflix-backed documentary Sky Ladder, which focuses on the artist and his story:

Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Sky Ladder” To Receive 100-City China Premiere Next Week

Cover image: Renaissance Flower Garden, 2018, Gunpowder on canvas; 300 x 400 cm; Photo by Yvonne Zhao, courtesy Cai Studio

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.

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