Museo del Prado Director Says Goodbye With Explosive Cai Guo-Qiang Project

Only a handful of living artists, like Thomas Struth and Miquel Barceló, have exhibited there.

Cai Guo-Qiang. Photo ©Javier Molina, courtesy Museo del Prado.

This month, Miguel Zugaza is stepping down after 15 years as director of Madrid’s Museo del Prado, and he is going out with a bang—literally.

The outgoing director has announced his last project for the institution: this coming September, the Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang will create several new works in situ—during a “residency” at the museum—that will respond to the institution’s fabulous collection of Old Master paintings.

The exhibition will open to the public in October, with Zugaza’s successor Miguel Falomir already at the helm of the museum (Zugaza is taking up the post of director at Bilbao’s Museo de Bellas Artes on March 20, according to El País)

The Museo del Prado in Madrid. Courtesy the museum.

The Museo del Prado in Madrid. Courtesy the museum.

Cai’s ambitious Prado project will culminate on October 23, with the live creation of a monumental 18-meter work titled The Spirit of Painting, made in collaboration with Spanish firework experts.

The resulting paintings, made with gunpowder on canvas, will be exhibited at the museum until March 2018.

Cai began his training as a painter with a fascination with El Greco, which led him to undertake a journey in his honor in the year 2009, starting in Crete and ending in Toledo.

The New York-based artist is best-known for employing gunpowder as painting material, creating his works via spectacular performances and large installations featuring explosion events and fireworks.

Some of his most famous interventions include the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, and the 2015 explosion event Sky Ladder at Huiyu Island, in his hometown Quanzhou, which he dedicated to his 100-year-old grandmother.

At the press conference, Zugaza expressed his satisfaction at having managed to program this contemporary exhibition at the museum.

During Zugaza’s tenure, works by Modern and Contemporary artists including Pablo Picasso, Miquel Barceló, Thomas Struth, and Cy Twombly have been exhibited at the renowned art historical museum.

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