To celebrate the centennial of Philadelphia’s grand boulevard, 900 illuminated paper lanterns in an array of bright colours will bob up and down Benjamin Franklin Parkway at night for four weeks on a fleet of 27 pedicabs./AFP
To celebrate the centennial of Philadelphia’s grand boulevard, 900 illuminated paper lanterns in an array of bright colours will bob up and down Benjamin Franklin Parkway at night for four weeks on a fleet of 27 pedicabs./AFP

Lighting up the Philly sky

Art September 25, 2017 01:00

By Agence France-Presse

A Chinese pyrotechnics master brings lantern rides to the US



CAI GUO-QIANG, the Chinese artist known for harnessing fireworks and gunpowder to craft delicate, ephemeral works, brought childhood dreams to life Thursday in a colourful public installation that is one of his largest in the United States.

To celebrate the centennial of Philadelphia’s grand boulevard, 900 illuminated paper lanterns in an array of bright colours will bob up and down Benjamin Franklin Parkway at night for four weeks on a fleet of 27 pedicabs.

Pedicabs decorated with lanterns roll down Ben Franklin Parkway in the grand opening of Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s latest work “Fireflies” in Philadelphia. /AFP

The lanterns were crafted by hand in Cai’s hometown of Quanzhou into whimsical shapes including space aliens, rocket ships, pandas, emojis, orbs and stars.

“I am shedding the conventions of large-scale celebrations to inject childlike playfulness and laughter into the centennial’s festivities,” Cai said ahead of the project.

Following a choreographed performance on Thursday, the free “Fireflies” rides will take place for four hours between Thursday and Sunday until October 8.

The three-wheeled pedicabs themselves were specially customised to serve both as rickshaws and kinetic sculptures. 

The pedicabs carry up to two passengers each on the boulevard lined with flags from all over the world that stretches from Robert Indiana’s “Love” sculpture to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s walks among his latest work “Fireflies” in Philadelphia./AFP

Cai, who once sent a 500-metre ladder of fire up into the sky and conceived the fireworks display of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, has a busy year ahead.

Last month he unveiled a large-scale work in Japan’s old imperial capital of Kyoto featuring a traditional wooden ship set atop an array of boulders and carrying five full-sized pine trees instead of passengers.

He opened a show of new work this week at Moscow’s Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, and Madrid’s Prado Museum will present specially commissioned gunpowder paintings for what will be only its second solo exhibition by a living artist since the museum opened in 1819.