philadelphia

Cai Guo-Qiang

Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Fabric Workshop and Museum

At sunset on December 11, 2009, before a freezing crowd and hundreds of commuters passing by, Cai Guo-Qiang ignited a fifty-foot-tall flower made from a gunpowder fuse that he had suspended on the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s columned facade. With a swarm of bright explosions, then a minute of sparklers streaming and smoking in the wind (while flames rose from tar paper protecting the sandstone steps, and men sprinted up with extinguishers), followed by a few deafening booms, Fallen Blossoms: Explosion Project, 2009, provided a moment of communal distraction—and a surprisingly poetic rumination on the brevity of life. Originally planned in 2004 by Anne d’Harnoncourt, the PMA’s beloved leader for a quarter century, and Marion Boulton “Kippy” Stroud, the founding director of the city’s Fabric Workshop and Museum, Cai’s Philadelphia debut evolved into a memorial to d’Harnoncourt after her

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