Cai's Odyssey
Shelby's Social Diary

Cai gunpowder, Buddhist monks and antiquities launch China Gallery at MFAH

Cai gunpowder, Buddhist monks and antiquities launch China Gallery at MFAH

News_China Gala_Cai Guo-Qiang
Cai Guo-Qiang Photo by Jenny Antill
News_China Gala_Christine Starkman_Nidhika Mehta
Christine Starkman , Nidhika Mehta Photo by Jenny Antill
News_China Gala_Albert Chao_Cai Guo-Qiang
Albert Chao Photo by Jenny Antill
News_China Gala_Guzheng artist_Changyuan Wang
Changyuan Wang Photo by Jenny Antill
News_China Gala_Frances Marzio_Vahid Kooros
Frances Marzio , Vahid Kooros Photo by Jenny Antill
News_China Gala_Kent Schaffer_Joan Lu
Kent Schaffer , Joan Lu Photo by Jenny Antill
News_China Gala_Michelle Hevrdejs_Frank J. Hevrdejs
Michelle Hevrdejs , Frank J. Hevrdejs Photo by Jenny Antill
News_China Gala_Sima Ladjevardian_Masoud Ladjevardian
Sima Ladjevardian , Masoud Ladjevardian Photo by Jenny Antill
News_China Gala_Mrs. In-suk Koo_Chong Ok Matthews
Mrs. In-suk Koo , Chong Ok Matthews Photo by Jenny Antill
News_China Gala_Margaret Alkek Williams
Margaret Alkek Williams Photo by Jenny Antill
News_China Gala_Albert Chao_Anne Chao
Albert Chao , Anne Chao Photo by Jenny Antill
News_China Gala_Ann Duncan_Charles Duncan
Ann Duncan , Charles Duncan Photo by Jenny Antill
News_China Gala_Ann Trammell, Diane Riley_John Riley
Ann Trammell , Diane Riley , John Riley Photo by Jenny Antill
News_China Gala_Amy Purvis_Ford Bell_Danielle St. Germain-Gordan
Amy Purvis , Ford Bell , Danielle St. Germain-Gordan Photo by Jenny Antill
News_China Gala_Cai Guo-Qiang
News_China Gala_Christine Starkman_Nidhika Mehta
News_China Gala_Albert Chao_Cai Guo-Qiang
News_China Gala_Guzheng artist_Changyuan Wang
News_China Gala_Frances Marzio_Vahid Kooros
News_China Gala_Kent Schaffer_Joan Lu
News_China Gala_Michelle Hevrdejs_Frank J. Hevrdejs
News_China Gala_Sima Ladjevardian_Masoud Ladjevardian
News_China Gala_Mrs. In-suk Koo_Chong Ok Matthews
News_China Gala_Margaret Alkek Williams
News_China Gala_Albert Chao_Anne Chao
News_China Gala_Ann Duncan_Charles Duncan
News_China Gala_Ann Trammell, Diane Riley_John Riley
News_China Gala_Amy Purvis_Ford Bell_Danielle St. Germain-Gordan

With the delicate chiming of brass bells and the chanting of Buddhist monks in saffron robes, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's new China Gallery received blessings for prosperity on Wednesday night.

The new home for the museum's growing collection of Chinese art also received generous nods of approval from gallery donors and top-tier MFAH patrons who joined in the preview of the Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Arts of China Gallery.

For weeks, anticipation had been building as Chinese gunpowder artist Cai Guo-Qiang prepared his paper canvas that would be ignited to create the ethereal images that now line the walls of the new gallery. Major donors and museum patrons who had witnessed the ignition now oohed and aahed over the sublime finished product. A video documenting the creation of the work, titled Odyssey, looped on screen throughout the evening. 

Anne and Albert Chao (the gallery is named in honor of his parents), Diane and John Riley, Nidhika and Pershant Mehta and Sima and Masoud Ladjevardian were among those praising the end result. That something so explosive could evolve into the serene landscape of the gallery walls seemed to captivate all that had seen the ignition, whether in person or via CultureMap's livestream of the process.

The artist — dressed in charcoal turtleneck, black suit and gray tennis shoes — beamed throughout the night as he strolled the gallery with the aura of a rock star. Michelle and Frank Hevrdejs, Martha Long, Ann and Charles Duncan, Pam and Dr. David Ott, Lily and Charles Foster, Jay Jones and Terry Wayne Jones were among those swept up in the moment. 

In his remarks to the dinner gathering that followed inspection of the gallery, MFAH director Peter Marzio observed that "Cai's great work of art serves as a receptacle for the ancient arts of China ...  It is a contemporary crucible to hold ancient work." This juxtaposition of old and new, he said, is something not replicated anywhere in the world.

Cai was clearly enjoying the moment. "What a wonderous evening is this," he said through his interpreter. Remarking on the gathering of 130 that included Chinese, Koreans, Indians and Japanese, he beamed, "This is truly a gala for Asians."

Christine Starkman, MFAH curator of Asian art and key in the Odyssey accomplishment, would probably have agreed. She even spoke a few words of Chinese in her remarks.

MFAH board chair Cornelia Long and Meredith Long welcomed guests that included Marjorie Horning, Leslie and Jack Blanton Jr., Susan and Lenoir Josey, Kent Shaffer and Joan Lu.  Special guest was Ford Bell, president of the American Association of Museums which will hold its national conference in Houston in May.

 

Relive ignition night at the warehouse: