Cai Guo-Qiang Ignites the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia’s two-venue Fallen Blossoms show began with a bang Friday, when Cai Guo-Qiang, the man responsible for the fantastic fireworks display at the Beijing Olympics, set off a explosive flower-shaped apparatus at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Attached to scaffolding around the structure, the 60-second blooming boom was followed by a second explosion. An hour and a half later, Cai ignited a drawing on silk sprinkled with gunpowder at Philadelphia’s Fabric Workshop. Those visiting can see the results of Cai’s fire throughout the exhibition, which runs through March and, as he says, addresses the meaning of time and memory. Fallen Blossoms also intends to pay tribute to Philadelphia Museum of Art’s longtime director, Anne d'Harnoncourt, who passed away last year. Cai’s fascination with the explosives used to ignite the show began as a child in Quanzhou City, China, home to fireworks-producing factories. Since he began working with the short-fused substances in 1980s, Cai’s work as appeared at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, the Tate Modern, and the Centre Pomidou before lighting up the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s façade last week.