Sky Explosion

Sky Ladder, realized at Huiyu Island Harbor, Quanzhou, Fujian, June15, 2015 at 4:49 am, approximately 2 minutes and 30 seconds.


A video has just been released of Sky Ladder, Cai Guo-Qiang’s golden explosion performance. The Fujian-born artist best known for ephemeral events of “unpredictable splendor” has bestowed a gift upon his century-old grandmother, his parents, his family, and his home town of Quanzhou. This is the third of the Sky Ladder
series, which began over 20 years ago.


In the artist’s words, “…earlier proposals were either more abstract or ceremonial. Sky Ladder today is tender, and touches my heart deeply: it carries affection for my hometown, my relatives and my friends. In contrast to my other attempts, which set the ignition time at dusk, this time the ladder rose toward the morning sun, carrying hope. For me, this not only means a return but also the start of a new journey.”


To create Sky Ladder, Cai filled a large white balloon with over 6000 cubic meters of helium. At the June 15, 2015 4:49am performance, the balloon lifted a 1600 ft. (500m) long, 18 ft. (5.5m) wide ladder lined with quick-burning fuses of gold-colored fireworks into the dawn sky. The fuses were ignited from the harbor beach, where flames ran along the coast then rose in a steep curve to the top of the ladder. The explosion lasted for two and a half minutes, gradually extinguishing from the bottom upward, like a stairway to heaven.


Cai is one of China’s most respected visual artists, often using gunpowder to produce paintings. In 2013, he created a massive 80 ft. painting of his hometown Quanzhou with the impact of gunpowder explosions, which was later auctioned by Christie’s for $2.5 million.