Exhibition: ‘Cai Guo-Qiang: Falling Back to Earth’ at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane

Exhibition dates: 23rd November 2013 – 11th May 2014


99 wolves a leaping
99 replicas of animals a drinking
31-metre suspended eucalyptus tree a leaning
170 tonnes of water a seeping
3,000 square metres of GOMA’s ground floor a taking
and not a partridge in a pear tree in sight…


Many thankx to the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Heritage' 2013

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Heritage' 2013

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Heritage' 2013

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Heritage' 2013

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Heritage' 2013

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Heritage' 2013


Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957)
99 life-sized replicas of animals, water, sand, drip mechanism
Installed dimensions variable
Commissioned for the exhibition Falling Back to Earth, 2013
Purchased 2013 with funds from Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Diversity Foundation through and with the assistance of the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation
Photograph: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art



“Thought-provoking and spectacular new installations inspired by Queensland landscapes will premiere in the first Australian solo exhibition of leading international contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang, opening tomorrow at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). Cai Guo-Qiang: Falling Back to Earth, on display from November 23 to May 11, 2014, builds on a longstanding working relationship between the artist and the Gallery, which dates back to Cai’s participation in the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art exhibitions in 1996 and 1999.

For the first time ever, all 3,000 square metres of GOMA’s ground floor will be dedicated to an exhibition of work by a single living artist. Falling Back to Earth features installations of 99 replicas of animals drinking from a pristine lake; 99 wolves leaping en masse and colliding with a glass wall; a suspended 31-metre eucalyptus tree, creating a space for contemplation; and a tea pavilion where visitors can pause, drink tea, and find out more about the artist and the exhibition. There will also be an interactive installation for children and a chronological display of the artist’s career, with photographs, ephemera, and original art works selected by the artist.

Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) Director Chris Saines said Cai Guo-Qiang’s ground-breaking practice over 25 years used unexpected materials to create transformative event-based and social projects. “This exhibition is a significant evolution for one of today’s most compelling and highly respected global artists, realised with a level of ambition unprecedented for an Australian art museum,” Mr Saines said. “Cai is shifting his focus from the cosmos to the Earth and to humanity’s complex relationship with nature, while maintaining his keen eye on both the seen and unseen forces that impact life.”

Cai Guo-Qiang said the exhibition title Falling Back to Earth was inspired by fourth-century poet Tao Yuanming’s well-known prose poem, Ah, homeward bound I go! “The text captures the concept behind the exhibition, and expresses the idea of going home, returning to the harmonious relationship between man and nature, and re-embracing the tranquillity in the landscape,” he said.

Exhibition curator Russell Storer, Curatorial Manager of Asian and Pacific Art, QAGOMA, said the new commissions drew on the striking beauty of Queensland landscapes and the exquisite imagery in historical Chinese painting and poetry, to express concerns regarding the ecological and social issues of our time. “Heritage 2013 is an installation of 99 replicas of animals including pandas, tigers, bears, giraffes and kangaroos, lowering their heads to drink water together from a lake that is surrounded by white sand, evoking the islands of Brisbane’s Moreton Bay,” Mr Storer said. “Seemingly a peaceful gathering of predator and prey, the menagerie of Heritage conveys an almost reverential solemnity, in a lyrical utopian vision loaded with uncertainty. It embodies Cai’s image of a ‘last paradise’ and his awareness of a sense of crisis in contemporary societies across the world.”

The first single artwork to take up the entire 1,100m2 of GOMA’s largest gallery space, Heritage presents animals drinking from a lake filled with 170 tonnes of water, which is viewable from a walkway that circles the entire installation. The Gallery will acquire Heritage thanks to a generous contribution from benefactor Win Schubert, through the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Diversity Foundation with the assistance of the QAGOMA Foundation.

Eucalyptus 2013, a 31-metre tree suspended along GOMA’s central Long Gallery, came from a plantation earmarked for clearing for urban community development. The work was inspired by the ancient trees of Lamington National Park, and creates a meditative, immersive experience for visitors,” Mr Storer said. “Drawing on his history of socially provocative projects, Cai presents Eucalyptus as an unfinished work to be completed by the audience, who are invited to draw and write their ideas on the tree’s past and future. A third major installation, Head On 2006 – Cai’s signature work of 99 life-size sculptures of wolves, which was commissioned by Deutsche Bank, Berlin – is appearing in Australia for the first time.”

In the free interactive installation, Let’s Create an Exhibition with a Boy Named Cai 2013, Cai Guo-Qiang and the QAGOMA Children’s Art Centre invite children to participate, using the artist’s working methods to create their own exhibition through hands-on and multimedia activities, which include an online ‘gunpowder drawing’ making program. An illustrated storybook written by the artist and created in collaboration with the Children’s Art Centre will be available from the QAGOMA Store.

The Tea Pavilion in the River Room invites visitors to pause, rest and reflect on the works in the exhibition. Visitors can sample Tie Guan Yin tea from Cai’s home province of Fujian and watch a documentary created especially for ‘Falling Back to Earth’ to learn more about the processes behind the exhibition. A detailed chronology of Cai’s work, including early works, ephemera, photographs and artefacts selected by the artist from his private collection and the QAGOMA Research Library, will be presented in the GOMA Foyer. The display will offer insights into the artist’s history with QAGOMA and the complexity and risk involved in Cai’s work. The exhibition will be fully documented in a major publication, available in January 2014. The book will feature photography of the new works and essays from leading curators, as well as reflections from Cai Guo-Qiang on his collaboration with children throughout his career.

Cai’s recent solo exhibitions and projects have included the retrospective Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe, presented at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the National Art Museum of China in Beijing in 2008 and the Guggenheim Bilbao in 2009. He was Director of Visual and Special Effects for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and his first exhibition in the Middle East was staged in Doha, Qatar, in 2011. In 2012, the artist appeared in solo exhibitions in Los Angeles, Hangzhou and Copenhagen. His first South American exhibition toured to Brasília, São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in 2013.”

Press release from the Gallery of Modern Art website


Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Tea Pavilion' 2013


Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957)
Tea Pavilion
Spotted gum (Corymbia maculata), wooden stools, Fujian Tie Guan Yin tea and video documentary
Commissioned for the exhibition Falling Back to Earth, 2013
Photo by Yuyu Chen, courtesy Cai Studio


Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Eucalyptus' 2013

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Eucalyptus' 2013

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Eucalyptus' 2013


Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957)
Spotted gum (Corymbia maculata), wooden stools, paper and pencils
Length: 3150 cm (approx.)
Commissioned for the exhibition Falling Back to Earth, 2013
Photograph: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art


Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Head On' 2006

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Head On' 2006

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Head On' 2006

Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957) 'Head On' 2006


Cai Guo-Qiang (China b. 1957)
Head On
99 life-sized replicas of wolves and glass wall. Wolves: gauze, resin, and hide
Dimensions variable
Deutsche Bank Collection, commissioned by Deutsche Bank AG
Photograph: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art



Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)

The Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) and Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) are located 150 metres from each other, on the south bank of the Brisbane River. Entrance to both buildings is possible from Stanley Place, and the river front entrance to the Queensland Art Gallery is on Melbourne Street. The Galleries are within easy walking distance to the city centre and South Bank Parklands.

Opening hours:
Daily 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Closed Christmas Day, Good Friday, open from 12.00 noon ANZAC Day

Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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