Auction | China Guardian (HK) Auctions Co., Ltd.
2023 Spring Auctions > Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art
Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art

Cai Guo-Qiang (b.1957)
Golden Yuan Bills- Numinous Talismans(Painted in 2005)

Gunpowder, ink, golden yuan bills mounted on paper

38 × 28 cm. 15 × 11 in.

Signed in Chinese and pinyin, dated on bottom left; signed in English on bottom right
Private Collection, Asia

Note: Cai Guo-Qiang exploded 66 Golden Yuan Bills that was issued by National Government of the Republic of China in 1948 on live on 29 March 2005 in MOCA Taipei, and sold the 66 pieces through a TV platform on the next day. This piece is one of them

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Taipei Eslite Gallery with a seal of the artist

The Magic of Gunpowder Blasting, Breaking the Boundaries of Art
Cai Guo-Qiang’s Golden Yuan Bills- Numinous Talismans

When discussing the relationship between Chinese and international art, Cai Guo-Qiang is one of the most influential artists that can’t be neglected. Born in Quanzhou, Fujian Province, he has been influenced by traditional Chinese firecrackers and folk beliefs since childhood. He believes that gunpowder originated from ancient Taoist alchemical activities and is a unique mystical presence that permeates human history, from birth and celebration to conflict and wars. The moment it bursts, it seems to communicate with heaven and earth, to expel evil spirits and to bring good luck, which fascinates him. In addition, his love for the uncontrollable and explosive power of gunpowder to destroy established norms has made gunpowder his primary medium of creation since the 1980s.

Apart from using gunpowder to break away from the traditional medium of painting, Cai Guo-Qiang also does not only uses canvas as a medium. In 2005, he even replaced the canvas with the Golden Yuan Bills issued by the National Government of the Republic of China in 1948. He placed gunpowder to form symbols like talismans and blasted them, and Golden Yuan Bills- Numinous Talismans is one of the works in this series. Golden Yuan Bills became a symbol of the chaotic economy in 1948 when inflation was so severe that 400 million gold circular coupons could only buy one stone of rice. Cai Guo-Qiang, who specialises in dialogue with history, lays out the 66 Golden Yuan Bills as if performing a religious ritual, applying gunpowder to them solemnly and reverently, as if channelling the energy of the spiritual world to trigger a reaction in the material world. In the blast of gunpowder, the historical memory of the two 10,000 Golden Yuan Bills was blasted awake. The bills, initially in a single form with low purchasing power and framed in Chinese Chupi paper, were transformed by the magic of Cai Guo-Qiang’s gunpowder into a symbol of “wealth and peace”. The heat of the burning flame fuses the culture, words and historical memory they represent into one, which is then transformed into a playful, bold artistic statement that speaks of Cai Guo-Qiang’s unconventional, creative exploration through ancient and modern times. He broke the boundaries of time, art taste, media and inherent values.

On the day following his work’s completion, Cai and famous Taiwanese host Kevin Tsai sold Golden Yuan Bills signed by both of them on a TV shopping show, challenging the stereotype that artworks are unattainable. From the creation to the sale of the artwork, they cleverly blended “high art” and “low art” in an epoch-making performance, creating a legend that will be enjoyed by all. Based on Cai Guo-Qiang’s classic gunpowder art, this work is a testament to his return to Chinese culture, his impact on the boundaries of art, and his challenge to society’s perception of “high art” and “low art”.

Price estimate:
HKD: 50,000 - 80,000
USD: 6,400 - 10,200

Auction Result:
HKD: 60,000



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