Exciting contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang is a busy man. This week he had exhibitions open in three major galleries: The Guggenheim in New York, The Cleveland Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Victoria. Happily for Australians, Cai – who was born in China and now works between New York and Shanghai – was in Melbourne for Thursday’s opening at NGV International, where his exhibition Cai Guo-Qiang: The Transient Landscapeis running in parallel with Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality.

Cai Guo-Qiang with his installation Murmurationin Cai Guo-Qing: The Transient Landscapeat NGV International. Photograph © Eugene Hyland

The section of the exhibition by Cai (pronounced Tsai) features an extraordinary installation of 10,000 porcelain starlings scorched by gunpowder – one of the signature elements that Cai famously uses in his work. Called Murmuration, the birds hang from the ceiling throughout both parts of the exhibition, creating what Cai called “an emotional thread that guides the visitors”. They culminate in a huge, dark swarm, creating a three-dimensional impression of a calligraphic drawing of the sacred Mount Li, the site of the ancient tomb of China’s first emperor,...

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