The explosive varieties of Cai Guo-Qiang’s flowers at the Uffizi Galleries.

An explosion of colors on canvas that represents the many varieties of flowers: this is the main theme of “Flora Commedia”, the solo exhibition of the contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang, on display at the Uffizi Galleries from November 20 last, until February 17 next.

Cai Guo-Qiang “Purple Poppy No.1”, gunpowder on canvas, Uffizi Galleries, 2018. Photo by Yvonne Zhao, courtesy Cai Studio.

The exhibition is co-curated by the director of the Uffizi Galleries, Eike Schmidt, together with Laura Donati, curator of the Cabinet of Drawings and Prints. Sixty works of various sizes, exhibited in ten interlinked galleries, for a sensory journey into the world of Florentine Renaissance art, revisited by the emotions and experiences of the contemporary Chinese artist. There are also a series of sketches illustrating his creative and individual process. Growing up in a flourishing artistic environment, Guo-Qiang, of Chinese nationality and class 1957, uses in his works mainly the techniques of gunpowder and daytime fireworks, expressing through these, his link with the past, with the tradition and with culture of the East. Cai Guo-Qiang saw his project born and spring from his visit to the Uffizi Galleries in 2017, finding inspiration in ancient floral compositions of Botticelli’s Primavera and in the flora of Renaissance gardens, being fascinated and enchanted by them. His emotionality is reflected on his canvases, and is expressed through the representation of floral varieties, such as green roses, yellow roses, black tulips, bouquets of flowers, daisies, irises, and many other.



Cai Guo-Qiang “Pomegranate Flowers”, gunpowder on canvas, Uffizi Galleries, 2018. Photo by Yvonne Zhao, courtesy Cai Studio.

In the first gallery there are four self-portraits, strongly inspired by Caravaggio’s art, while in the second gallery there are more than forty works arranged according to the original installation of the Medici family’s collection. The exhibition of Guo-Qiang’s works in the rooms following the rooms where the masterpieces of masters of the late Renaissance such as Caravaggio and Rembrandt are exhibited, is obviously a source of pride for the artist, who is thus also logistically put in touch and into dialogue with his mentors. In each gallery, a theme is represented: from the “Caravaggio Garden” to the “Renaissance Garden” in the second gallery, from the “Color Garden” in the third to the “Nature Garden” in the fourth, up to the “Cosmos Garden” in the fifth gallery. And then, the “White Garden”, the “Black Garden”, the “Erotic Garden”, up to the “Celestial Garden” in the last gallery.

Guo-Qiang focuses himself on the energy and vitality that comes from his painting, on the spirituality that suggests, and on his continuous inner research, on the freedom to represent reality. Flowers as the essence of purity , but also as a symbol of desire and pleasure of the body, as expression of the contact with nature and of the soul of the Renaissance. It’s the celebration of this historical moment, the awakening of art, culture, literature, but revisited in the contemporary era.

The exhibition has been realized thanks to the support of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, and the Municipality of Florence. It is part of a more complex project that involves not only Italy, but also the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and the Museo Nacional Del Prado in Madrid, where in 2017 two exhibitions of the artist were installed, according to his “An Individual’s Journey through Western Art History”. A journey of reflection over three years, which will continue in 2019 with an exhibition at the Archaeological Museum of Naples and it will end in the East. The artist thus wants to represent a link between his land and the West, in a mixture of cultures, customs and pictorial techniques, breaking down all geographical and cultural boundaries.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, published by Giunti Editore, with editions in Italian, English and Mandarin Chinese, which includes essays by the director of the Uffizi Galleries Eike Schmidt, the curator Laura Donati, the curator Germano Celant, the art historian Simon Schama, as well as the artist himself.


Cai Guo-Qiang. Flora Commedia

Period: 20 November 2018 - 17 February 2019

Opening hours: every day from 08.15 am to 06.50 pm

closed on Mondays

Where: Galleria degli Uffizi

Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6 - Florence

Entry: regular 12€ reduced 6€


- Giulia Zamponi


Cai Guo-Qiang “Gunpowder test”, gunpowder on canvas, Uffizi Galleries, 2018. Photo by Yvonne Zhao, courtesy Cai Studio.