Alchemist was an important work featured in Cai Guo-Qiang’s solo exhibition in 2017-2018 – The Spirit of Painting: Cai Guo-Qiang at the Prado. Cai transformed the museum’s Salón de Reinos into his studio, and Alchemist was one of eight paintings created and ignited onsite for this exhibition. Over 400 years ago, Philip IV commissioned Velázquez and other Great Masters of the Spanish Golden Age to create and exhibit works in this palace…

ForAlchemist, Cai returned to the basics; discarding stencils and using his hands as paint brushes to caress the gunpowder into various shapes. Taking ancient alchemy as its theme, the work represents its iconic symbol–the green lion. Resonating with the transformation of gunpowder as a material and the flux of energy, it is likewise an homage to the alchemist-like, wondrous greatness of the Prado’s Old Masters.

The Prado houses one of the world’s greatest painting collections, and is especially known for its collection of works by Titian, Bosch, Rubens, El Greco, Velázquez, and Goya. Cai Guo-Qiang was the first artist to be commissioned by the museum for an exhibition, and the first to create works on-site since the museum’s opening in 1819.




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