b. 1957, Quanzhou, Kina
Cai Guo-Qiang was born in Quanzhou in 1957. He studied scenography at the Shanghai Theatre Academy from 1981 to 1985, where he learned about the experimental scenography of the Western world.
He lived in Japan from 1986 until he established himself in New York City in 1995, where he still lives and works. He is one of the most famous contemporary Chinese artists who lives in exile. Cai’s artistic career began with paintings, but he eventually branched out and created his well-known gunpowder drawings and spectacular pyrotechnical happenings.
The installation The Eagle has Arrived! consists of a large, overturned wooden boat. The hovering boat appears to be supported by thirty pointed wooden spears. The boat is modelled on a Roman warship with thirty oars spread along its sides like wings. In this work the boat unites the past with the present, as it is decorated with an EU flag. The spears can symbolise the defence of the union against foreign powers, while at the same time the union is “invading” new member countries. The title The Eagle has Arrived! can refer both to the birdlike body of the sculpture and the expression “The Eagle has Landed”, the title of a book by Jack Higgins but also Neil Armstrong’s comment when the Apollo 11 landed on the moon. The eagle is a universal representation of strength, and has been used as a symbol of both the government and the military forces in the Roman Empire, Nazi Germany and the USA, among others. The work can thus symbolise the glory and power of empires, which often entails paying the price of oppression and war.