Arts / Culture

Cai guo-qiang and Saint Laurent set the skies ablaze with a mesmerising fireworks in the light of day

It's quite a mesmerising spectacle to see daylight skies set ablaze with explosions of vibrant hues and textures. This sort of sky performance is usually reserved for when then the light fades away. But this is what the renowned contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang embarked on, as commissioned by Anthony Vaccarello for the French fashion house Saint Laurent. The artwork entitled When the Sky Blooms with Sakura opened Cai Guo-Qiang's large-scale solo exhibition Ramble in the Cosmos - From Primeval Fireball Onward at the National Art Center Tokyo on June 29.

The breathtaking vision took place in Japan, along the Iwaki coastline in Fukushima and consisted of 40,000 fireworks being set off in tribute to those who had lost their lives in tragedies including the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and three-year-long coronavirus pandemic that swept across the world claiming millions of lives.

Saint Laurent shared that the work ‘Informed by the ethos of Eastern philosophy where rebirth is attained through transcending trauma, [the artwork] aspires to bolster the resilient human spirit in the face of global adversity, conveying a message of hope and renaissance.’

This commission from Saint Laurent marks a continuation of the artist's exploration of large-scale, commemorative pieces that address suffering through beauty and evidently hold emotional significance. From 1986 to 1994, the artist resided and worked in Japan, including Iwaki. Even after moving to the United States, he kept in touch with the people he met there. Guo-Qiang even initiated a collaborative effort to plant 99,000 cherry blossom trees in the city outskirts following the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The fireworks were released in a captivating three-part visual sequence that feels at once poetic and explosive; crafted to invoke a range of motifs. Cai Guo-Qiang launched the fireworks 400 metres into the air forming pink and orange bursts evoking cherry blossom trees that spanned 400 meters along the Iwaki coastline. There were 12 white chrysanthemums and blue waves symbolizing a tsunami. The fireworks appeared above the same coast where his explosion event The Horizon from the Pan-Pacific: Project for Extraterrestrials No. 14 was realised 30 years ago.

Although the fireworks were set off in Tokyo, the rest of the world was still able to catch a glimpse of the phenomenon. The presentation was live-streamed on Saint Laurent's website and broadcast worldwide, allowing the spectacle to be experienced across the globe. When The Sky Blooms with Sakura was streamed at Times Square in New York City, Piccadilly in London, The Grand Gateway in Shanghai, Shamao in Chengdu, and Shinjuku and Harajuku in Tokyo.

If the daytime fireworks have left you craving some culture in your life, we have you covered with our guide that covers all the exhibitions across Australia in July.

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