Getty to inaugurate PST ART: Art & Science Collide on September 15 with monumental public daytime fireworks by world-renowned artist Cai Guo-Qiang

Computer rendering for WE ARE: Explosion Event for PST ART, 2024. Courtesy Cai Studio.
Computer rendering for WE ARE: Explosion Event for PST ART, 2024. Courtesy Cai Studio.
Computer rendering for WE ARE: Explosion Event for PST ART, 2024. Courtesy Cai Studio.

Spectacular Daytime Fireworks Blend Artistic Vision with Technology for a Colorful, Larger-Than-Life Performance at the Iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

July 08, 2024 (Los Angeles, CA) — Today Getty announced that PST ART (previously known as Pacific Standard Time) will begin on September 15, 2024, with a newly commissioned, arena-scale daytime fireworks event by Cai Guo-Qiang, the contemporary artist known for larger-than-life outdoor “explosion events.”

Titled WE ARE: Explosion Event for PST ART, the daytime fireworks—a signature form of Cai’s art that uses organic, sustainable pigments and dyes rather than traditional pyrotechnics—are conceived and choreographed by the artist in collaboration with his custom AI model cAI™ (pronounced AI Cai), engaging over one thousand aerial drones. Staged around, above, and inside the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in collaboration with Getty and the University of Southern California, WE ARE will mark the first expansive daytime firework event featuring drone formation equipped with pyrotechnic products in US history. The event inaugurates this edition of PST ART with a spectacular realization of the initiative’s latest theme, Art & Science Collide, with elements of AI, data science, the cosmos, and technology all at play. Accompanying Cai’s explosion event at the Coliseum will be Cai Guo-Qiang: A Material Odyssey, an exhibition at the USC Pacific Asia Museum based on Getty's extensive scientific research into Cai's gunpowder art.

“Quite literally, WE ARE exemplifies Art & Science Collide,” said Katherine E. Fleming, President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust. “Cai’s work is explosive, expressive, and unprecedented in scale. Lighting up the sky of Los Angeles, this performance will signal PST ART’s potential to reach audiences far and wide.”

To join in celebrating the start of PST ART, the public is invited to experience the monumental, multi-act performance, which will begin at dusk, when nearly ten thousand twinkling mini firework shells installed throughout the seating bowl will transform the Coliseum into a massive matrix of animated fireworks. Custom-developed daytime fireworks and choreographed drones carrying pyrotechnic products will shape the artist’s bursts of colorful explosions into a visual story full of mystery and wonder, igniting the sky with images that showcase AI's revelation of a “heavenly secret” through the reduction of its dimensionality, followed by those recalling the myth of Prometheus’s theft of fire from the gods and suggesting a present-day parallel in the relationship between humanity and AI.

WE ARE was developed by Cai in collaboration with his multi-modal AI model cAI™. Originating from the artist’s AI research starting in 2017, cAI™ deep-learns from Cai’s artworks, archives, and areas of interest. By emulating contemporary and historical figures Cai admires, cAI™ creates distinct personas that engage in dynamic debates, fostering an independent and free community. This time, cAI™ deeply participated in all creative stages of the development of this work, collaboratively exploring the nature of AI, conducting site visits, and undertaking materials research with the artist.

Cai Guo-Qiang expressed, “Today, as humanity grapples with the swift advancement of technologies epitomized by AI, culture and the arts appear particularly powerless. I hope WE ARE will stand as a grand gesture of the art world integrating the virtual with the real in the era of AI, and also as a powerful voice and decisive action in these turbulent times.”

The scale of the performance matches the vast scope of PST ART, which will take place over the course of five months throughout Southern California. Supported by more than $20 million in grants from Getty, dozens of cultural, scientific, and community organizations will present more than 70 deeply researched exhibitions alongside an extraordinary spectrum of public programs about Art & Science Collide, exploring themes that range from biotechnology to sustainable agriculture, from ancient cosmologies to Indigenous sci-fi, and from artificial intelligence to environmental justice.

Cai Guo-Qiang’s performance and exhibition for PST ART are generously supported by Principal Partners Eva and Ming Hsieh, Co-Founders of Fulgent Genetics, Peggy and Andrew Cherng, Co-Chairs and Co-CEOs of Panda Express, and the Getty Patron Program. Major support is provided by Yan Luo, Ellen and Dominic Ng, Haiyan Ren, and Sophia and Anqiang Zhang.

Eva Hsieh of the Hsieh Family Foundation and Fulgent Genetics says, “We have long been aware of Getty’s groundbreaking PST initiatives and their unparalleled impact. We are thrilled for an opportunity to help introduce a contemporary visionary like Cai Guo-Qiang to this awe-inspiring  collision of art and science. His extraordinary work uniting themes of technology, creative expression, and AI will ignite a perfect celebration for all of Los Angeles.”

Based on Getty's extensive research into Cai's gunpowder drawings and paintings since 2016, the exhibition Cai Guo-Qiang: A Material Odyssey will almost fill the entire USC Pacific Asia Museum, chronicling Cai Guo-Qiang’s lifelong engagement with pyrotechnics. The exhibition will display a vast selection of the artist’s work as well as scientific imagery to explore the nature of gunpowder, its influence on Cai’s work, and how Cai’s process has evolved over time. Programs accompanying A Material Odyssey will include videos illustrating the making of fireworks, the process of creating gunpowder paintings, interactive displays, and a variety of film screenings and conversations.

“Cai has embraced the use of gunpowder because he wanted to relinquish control over the creation process. No matter how precisely a gunpowder drawing is planned, the results are still unpredictable,” said Rachel Rivenc, lead curator and Head of Conservation and Preservation at Getty Research Institute. “With any artist it is important to understand their materials and process, and with Cai, the materials are so unusual and groundbreaking that getting to know them provides a whole new level of understanding of his work.”

“We are very excited to see Cai Guo-Qiang bring his technical and artistic wizardry to the Coliseum and we appreciate the collaboration with the Getty,” said USC President Carol Folt. “WE ARE fits like a glove with USC’s moonshots. It will help push the frontiers of AI and advanced computing even further—and break new ground in the arts with game-changing technology and science. All of this while feeding the innovative spirit that pulses through our community.”

A public day-long symposium on AI and the arts titled “Beyond the Human?: From the Metaphysical to the Physical” will be held at USC on September 16, 2024. The symposium, presented by USC Arts Now, organized by USC Vice Provost for the Arts Josh Kun and Cai GuoQiang (with additional curation by USC professor Holly Willis), will feature a global roster of distinguished thinkers, artists, filmmakers, performers, and technologists to ask fundamental questions about the metaphysical, the physical, and the category of the human itself, accompanied by robot chefs cooking on-site. The symposium is the first public event of USC Arts Now, the new flagship arts initiative launching this fall.

WE ARE is a free ticketed event, available for booking later this summer. For more details on how to reserve tickets, sign up for the PST ART mailing list.


About PST ART: Art & Science Collide

Southern California’s landmark arts event Pacific Standard Time—now PST ART—returns in September 2024 with more than 70 exhibitions from museums and other institutions across the region, all exploring the intersections of art and science—past, present, and in the imaginable future. Dozens of cultural, scientific, and community organizations will join the latest edition, PST ART: Art & Science Collide, to share groundbreaking research, create indelible experiences for the public, and generate new ways of understanding our complex world.

PST ART: Art & Science Collide follows Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA (September 2017–January 2018) and Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980 (October 2011– March 2012). PST ART is presented by Getty. Lead partners are Bank of America, Alicia Miñana & Rob Lovelace, and the Getty Patron Program. The principal partner is Simons Foundation. For more information about PST ART: Art & Science Collide, please visit: pst.art.

About Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo-Qiang (b. 1957, Quanzhou, China) was trained in stage design at the Shanghai Theatre Academy in the early 1980s. From December 1986 to September 1995, he sojourned in Japan. Cai has resided and worked in New York since 1995. Cai has excelled in a broad range of creative mediums, from painting, installation, video art, and performance art, to new technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), NFTs, blockchain, and artificial intelligence (AI). Grounded in the conceptual foundations of Eastern philosophy and contemporary social issues, his often-site-specific artworks interpret and respond to the local culture and history, establishing a dialogue between viewers and the larger universe around them. His famed gunpowder paintings, explosion events, and installations are imbued with a force that transcends the two-dimensional plane to oscillate freely between society and nature. Over three decades, Cai has had numerous solo exhibitions in major art museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2006, and a retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2008, the latter of which broke the museum’s then-attendance record of a visual art exhibition.

In 2015, Cai realized the explosion event Sky Ladder in his hometown of Quanzhou. The eponymous documentary film, directed by Academy Award winner Kevin MacDonald, was released globally on Netflix. In recent years, Cai embarked on his Individual’s Journey Through Western Art History—a series of exhibitions held in world-renowned museums, including the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow (2017); Museo del Prado, Madrid (2017); Uffizi Galleries, Florence (2018); National Archaeological Museum of Naples and Pompeii Archaeological Park (2019). In December 2020, on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of the Forbidden City, Cai presented Odyssey and Homecoming, becoming the first contemporary artist to have a solo exhibition at the Palace Museum in Beijing. The following year, Odyssey and Homecoming travelled to the new Jean Nouvel–designed Museum of Art Pudong in Shanghai, as one of the opening exhibitions. Cai has received numerous prestigious awards, including the Golden Lion at the 1999 Venice Biennale, the Hiroshima Art Prize in 2007, and the 2009 Fukuoka Prize. In 2012, he was honored as a Laureate for the prestigious Praemium Imperiale in the painting category. The award recognizes lifetime achievement in the arts across categories not covered by the Nobel Prize. The same year, he was named as one of five artists to receive the first U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts for his outstanding commitment to international cultural exchange. His recent honors include the Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation Award in 2015, the 7th Isamu Noguchi Award in 2020,  the Rockefeller 3rd Award in 2022, and the 74th Art Encouragement Prize by Japan’s Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology in 2024. Cai also served as the Director of Visual Effects and Fireworks for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

About USC Pacific Asia Museum

An integral part of the University of Southern California, the USC Pacific Asia Museum creates inspiring encounters with the art, history, and culture of Pacific Asia to promote intercultural understanding in the service of elevating our shared sense of humanity. Established in 1971, the museum is one of few U.S. institutions dedicated to the arts and culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands serving the city of Los Angeles and the Greater Southern California region. The museum’s historic building has served as a center for art, culture, and learning in Pasadena since its construction in 1924 by pioneering collector and entrepreneur Grace Nicholson (1877–1948) as her residence and galleries. In its brief history, the museum has organized and presented several groundbreaking exhibitions, including the first North American exhibitions of contemporary Chinese art and the first exhibition of Aboriginal art in the United States. Exhibitions originated by the museum have traveled across the country and internationally. A leader in its academic work and committed to scholarship, USC PAM has produced more than 50 exhibition catalogs. Learn more at pacificasiamuseum.usc.edu.

About the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Often called “The Greatest Stadium in the World,” the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is a living memorial to those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War I. The 77,500-capacity stadium was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1984. Home to USC football since 1923, the Coliseum is the only venue to host opening and closing ceremonies and the track and field competition for two Summer Olympics (1932 and 1984) and soon a third (2028). The iconic facility has been home to UCLA Bruins football (1928–81), the Los Angeles Rams (1946–79 and 2016–19), and even the Los Angeles Dodgers (1958–61), among otherteams. It has hosted two Super Bowls, a World Series, six U.S. presidents and dignitaries including Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr., and some of the greatest acts in entertainment including Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, and Drake. A renovation completed in August 2019 prepared the facility for its second century, preserving its history while unveiling the seven-story Scholarship Club Tower, which includes luxury suites, club seats, and a state-of-the-art press box.

The Coliseum is jointly owned by the state, county, and city, and is managed by USC under a longterm lease. Visit lacoliseum.com for a schedule of events and more information.

WE ARE by Cai Guo-Qiang is a Getty commission developed for PST ART: Art & Science Collide.

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