Cai Guo-Qiang was born in 1957 in Quanzhou City, China. He was trained in stage design at the Shanghai Theater Academy, and his work has since crossed multiple mediums within art, including drawing, installation, video and performance. While living in Japan from 1986 to 1995, he explored the properties of gunpowder in his drawings, an inquiry that eventually led to the development of his signature explosion events.
Cai was awarded the Golden Lion at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, the 20th Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 2009, the Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation Award in 2015, and the Bonnefanten Award for Contemporary Art (BACA) 2016. In 2012, He was honored as one of five Laureates for the prestigious Praemium Imperiale, an award that recognizes lifetime achievement in the arts in categories not covered by the Nobel Prize. Additionally, he was also among the five artists who received the first U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts award for his outstanding commitment to international cultural exchange. Cai also served as Director of Visual and Special Effects for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Among his many solo exhibitions and projects include Cai Guo-Qiang on the Roof: Transparent Monument, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2006 and his retrospective I Want to Believe, which opened at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York in 2008. His first-ever solo exhibition in Brazil, Da Vincis do Povo, went on a three-city tour around the country in 2013. Traveling from Brasilia to São Paulo before reaching its final destination in Rio de Janeiro, it was the most visited exhibition by a living artist worldwide that year with over one million visitors. In June 2015, Cai created explosion event Sky Ladder off of Huiyu Island, Quanzhou, China; the artwork became the central piece in the 2016 Netflix documentary Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang, directed by Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald.
Cai Guo-Qiang: Fireflies, his largest public art project in the United States in the past decade, launched in Philadelphia in September 2017. His most recent explosion event, Color Mushroom Cloud, was realized on December 2 in Chicago. His solo exhibitions in 2017 include Cai Guo-Qiang: October at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia; and The Spirit of Painting. Cai Guo-Qiang at the Prado at the Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.
He currently lives and works in New York.