Wolves in Japan: Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Head On” at the Yokohama Museum of Art

A pack of 99 life-sized wolves storms against a wall of glass. With Head On, Cai Guo-Qiang created one of his most powerful installations. The commissioned work for the Deutsche Bank Collection was shown for the first time in Berlin in 2006. Since then, visitors in New York, Bilbao, Taipeh, Singapore, and Brisbane have also raved about it. Now, the installation makes its first appearance in Japan, in the exhibition There and Back Again at the Yokohama Museum of Art. While Cai’s wolves were inspired by Berlin and its history, its message is wider: “I wanted to portray the universal human tragedy,” said the artist, “resulting from this blind urge to press forward, the way we try to attain our goals without compromise.”

The New York-based Chinese artist has close ties to Japan: this is where, in the 1980s, he perfected the artistic techniques that have made him famous: the fireworks performances and the drawings he made using gunpowder. He created his largest gunpowder drawing to date, measuring 8 x 24 meters, for Yokohama. Nighttime Sakura can be seen in the reception hall of the museum and is dedicated to one of the most important symbols of Japanese culture—the cherry blossom, which stands for beauty, new beginnings, and transience. Parallel to There and Back Again, Cai also initiated Art Island, an online platform for kids. Along with virtual workshops and games, it also provides an opportunity to collaborate on projects and to exchange ideas. The goal of Art Island is to foster understanding in East Asia—across all political and cultural boundaries.

Cai Guo-Qiang: There and Back Again
Yokohama Museum of Art