With Saint Laurent, Cai Guo-Qiang Launches the First Daytime Fireworks Japan Has Ever Seen

Portrait of Cai Guo-Qiang. All images courtesy of the artist, Saint Laurent, and the National Art Center, Tokyo.

Today, the National Art Center, Tokyo opens "Ramble in the Cosmos – From Primeval Fireball Onward," a look at the work of artist Cai Guo-Qiang, organized in partnership with luxury fashion house Saint Laurent. The showing takes Cai’s 1991 Tokyo exhibition, “Primeval Fireball: The Project for Projects,” as the metaphorical Big Bang of his cosmos- and metaphysics-inspired practice. “'Primeval Fireball' marked a transformative departure for my vision and thinking, and its lasting effects accompany me to this present moment,” said Cai in a statement.

Prior to the new exhibition opening, Cai curated a daytime fireworks event, the first of its kind in Japan, commissioned by Saint Laurent's Creative Director Anthony Vaccarello. The piece, titled "When the Sky Blooms with Sakura," cast bold colors in the sky above Yotsukura Beach in Iwaki City, Japan, a nod to the location where the artist’s previous work, "The Horizon from the Pan-Pacific: Project for Extraterrestrials No. 14," was realized three decades ago.

In the previous display, Cai used five gunpowder fuses to draw the contours of the earth on the surface of the sea near Iwaki, illuminating the night with flashes of light. The artwork's spirit of universal dialogue inspired local residents to actively participate, purchasing gunpowder fuses and collectively turning off their household lights to enhance the spectacle's beauty. 

The area is still recovering from a devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and carries personal significance for the artist. “Mankind today is facing various challenges such as coexisting with the pandemic, economic decline, de-globalization, and increased national and cultural conflicts,” said Cai. “Through the sakura in the sky, I was expressing the story of the friendship between the people of Iwaki and me, which transcends politics and history.”

The partnership between Cai and Saint Laurent reflects the fashion house's ongoing mission to support excellence in a variety of creative fields—including visual arts, cinema, and music—under Vaccarello’s leadership. Over the course of the exhibition, NACT's Special Exhibition Gallery will be transformed into an immersive experience. "Primeval Fireball" itself will be re-staged with three new paintings on glass and mirror, each unveiling new subjects. Viewers will also encounter another major highlight of the artist’s career—Cai’s kinetic LED installation, "Encounter with the Unknown." Approximately 50 works will be on display, including pieces from Cai's personal collection. These will be complemented by rare archival materials and documentary videos offering insight on the artist's perspective. 

“Ramble in the Cosmos – From Primeval Fireball Onward," will be on display through August 21, 2023 at NACT in Tokyo.