(B. 1957)
Nine Cars
titled, inscribed, signed and dated in Chinese; titled and inscribed 'Nine Cars Drawing for Inopportune, MASS Moca' in English; signed 'Cai Guo-Qiang' in Pinyin (lower right)
gunpowder and ink on paper, diptych
each: 401 x 303.5 cm. (157 3/4 x 119 1/2 in.)
overall: 401 x 607 cm. (157 3/4 x 238 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2004 (2)
Sotheby's London, 12 October 2007, Lot 7
Acquired from the above by the present owner
North Adams, Massachusetts, USA, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, SITE, Cai Guo-Qiang: Inopportune, 2005 (illustrated, pp. 48-49).
Institut Valenci/g a d'Art Modern, Cai Guo-Qiang Fuegos Artificiales Negros on Black Fireworks, Madrid, Spain, 2005 (illustrated, p. 215).
North Adams, Massachusetts, USA, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Cai Guo-Qiang: Inopportune, 12 December 2004-30 October 2005. Madrid, Spain, Institut Valenci/ga d'Art Modern, Cai Guo-Qiang Fuegos Artificiales Negros on Black Fireworks, 20 May-12 June 2005.
Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, SITE, Cai Guo-Qiang: Inopportune, 21 January-26 March 2006.
Quebec, Canada, National Gallery of Canada, Cai Guo-Qiang: Long Scroll, 10 June-1 October 2006.
New York, USA, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe, 22 February-28 May 2008.
Beijing, China, National Art Museum of China, Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe, 19 August-2 September 2008.
Bilbao, Spain, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe, 17 March-6 September 2009.

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Lot Essay

" There are nine real cars in the room, each identical to the others... The least we can say about a car bomb is that it shatters the principle of identity through the process ofigniting. So this is not really an explosion after all. As the artist himself has declared, it is more like a dream image than a representation. But what does it mean to dream a car bomb? Dreams are for the most part harmless, while a car bomb is anything but harmless for those who find themselves in the vicinity of its detonation. In Inopportune: Stage One, the catastrophe is at once silent, beautiful and innocuous, for the self-same car remains in tact after its tumultuous ride through the air. This is disturbing. It unsettles. We know that the explosion took place - that it is taking place - yet its effects, cancelled out at the end of the trajectory, are consigned to the oblivious of dreams or the order of illusion."

- Robert Pogue Harrison ("Of Terror and Tigers: Reflections on Cai Guo-Qiang's Inopportune", pp. 1-2)

The above passage describes the large scale installation, Inopportune: Stage One, a work related to and originally exhibited with the present lot, Nine Cars (Lot 1030). First presented together in Cai Guo-Qiang's monumental solo exhibition, Inopportune at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in 2007, the installation was presented again in 2008, along with Nine Cars, in the artist's retrospective I Want to Believe, organized by the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Cai's exhibition at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art was at the time one of the largest exhibitions of his works to be held in North America. It presented the artist with the opportunity to refine his major themes, expand beyond his conventional materials, and effectively re-introduce himself to an American audience. The philosophical nature of Cai's work might suggest that his concerns are primarily of an esoteric nature, but we have also seen how his interest in contemporary politics and addressing historical injustices have also always been a core aspect of his work. For example, with his gunpowder screen, Re-Building the Great Wall: Project for Extraterrestrials No. 7, a project that was never executed due to logistical and practical challenges, Cai sought to ignite fireworks and gunpowder along the original location of the Berlin Wall; he intended for it to burn for 28 seconds, one second for every year that the wall stood, as a kind of cathartic reminder of both the trauma and the ephemerality of that division.

In a post-9/11 world, Cai's interest in the sociopolitical environment and its impact on our consciousness has become more and more apparent. As with Inopportune: Stage One, Cai begins using multi-media installations to make material the audience's unconscious fears, particularly in the age of terrorism. The installation of the cars involved their seeming to hurdle through open space, the same car type, colour, and model, repeating nine times, in different states of explosion, before seeming to return to its original unadulterated state. As such, they are not the representation of an actual explosion, but instead suggest the ways in which such mundane objects like an anonymous white sedan could become a harbinger of violence and terror.
In the companion gunpowder drawing Nine Cars, created by two of Cai's oversized sheets of Japanese paper, the artists intentionally shifts the meaning of the installation project and extends it across additional metaphorical lines. The automobiles offer a representational motif not always present in Cai's gunpowder drawings. But they are also the occasion for experimentation and for the evocation of multiple cultural associations. The "cars" as images move in and out of abstraction, in various states of combustion. Cai's method of laying pigment, gunpowder, and stencils on the paper before starting the explosion allows for a considerable range of "chance" and Cai's favoured intentional accidents. As such, the viewer's attention shifts from the articulated shapes of the image to the shape itself.

" When a large-scale explosion happens, the impact at the moment of the explosion creates a sense of momentary chaos. It distorts time, space, one's sense of existence and of those around you. It has an impact both biologically and spiritually. It creates many possibilities and somehow also pauses time. It is a flash-like moment that also creates a sense of eternity. "

- Cai Guo-Qiang ('Cai Guo-Qiang Chronology', Cai Guo-Qiang Hanging Out in the Museum, p. 289.)

Cai has replaced the violence of the imagined explosion with the creative chaos of his
gunpowder explosion. The "nine cars" now appear in circular form, evoking a temporal dimension not present in the installation, suggesting at once eternity and infinite time, and the cyclical notion of time present in many sacred myths. In many religions, it is also suggestive of wholeness, birth, and the female spirit or force, contra the destruction and violence of the exploding cars. In addition, the number nine is not entirely incidental: in China, it can refer to celestial power, while the configuration is suggestive of the nine planets of our solar system. As such, the related installation suggests the materialization of our waking nightmares, the all too- ready transformation of objects from our daily environment into vehicles of destruction, while the gunpowder drawing, Nine Cars, places the work firmly within Cai's own aesthetic philosophy and world view. Now the cars, in a progressive cycle of explosion and destruction, are placed within the larger space of cyclical time and the universe, part of the eternal cycle of creation and destruction, death and birth. In this way, Cai reveals the dynamics of our time, one full of anxiety over the ambient presence of violence in everyday life, while also humbling the viewer by reminding us of that our day-to-day concerns are part of the larger, inexorable cycle of life.

He has said, " Every time gunpowder explodes on a border, war occurs and the nightmare is replayed... Everywhere on earth, there is a horizon that is common to all of humanity, but beyond this horizon, however, there is a place to which we must head through the collaboration of all humankind. It is where we swiftly came from and where we will returnK the horizon of the universe. " In this way, Cai's aims to bring us back to ourselves, to transcend our natures, and reinvigorate our lives with a finer feeling for beauty and humanity.

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