Should you find yourself with the luxury of traveling from Brasilia to São Paulo and on to Rio de Janeiro—as a groupie to Cai Guo-Qiang’s three-city exhibition—you’d witness the Chinese artist’s “Peasant Da Vincis (Da Vincis do Povo)” project incarnate three times, in each city, responding to the local culture and architecture. Originally shown in Shanghai in 2010, the exhibition paid tribute to Chinese peasant inventors and their contributions to modern China with a showcase of submarines and robots, flying machines and a glowing UFO atop the roof of the museum. But why revive the exhibition in Brazil, three years later?
“In Brazil, the nation’s path to modernization is similar to that of China’s,” says Cai, who changed the exhibition’s original title, “Peasant Da Vincis,” to “Da Vincis do Povo” (Da Vincis of the people) to adapt with Brazil, where the the notion of a peasant or farmer is less applicable.
After a first stint in Brasilia (luring over 300,000 visitors), the exhibition moved to São Paulo, where 14 major installations by Cai were showcased among works by Chinese inventors, suspended over the streets of the city, and notably, above rickshaw-pulling robots, cruising the sidewalks. Finally, “Da Vincis do Povo” holds its last chapter in Rio, where flying saucers, submarines, and homemade airplanes hang mid-air from the Pantheon-esque dome of the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB).
But not in the wildest dreams of even the most imaginative inventors would there exist a tribute to their labors so grand. Through September 23rd, step into the CCBB and look up to the rotunda—and let your eye circle down to meet the 65-foot aircraft carrier centerpiece, standing upright, commissioned by Cai. With over 60 inventions in orbit throughout the enormous Art Deco cultural center, Cai’s cultural readymades salute the whimsical, country-dweller inventions he’s collected for years and encourage a new generation to innovate in the same way. In each of the three cities, Cai has provided workshops to help children from different communities build planes, trains, robots, and submarines from everyday objects, which he’s exhibited in the Museu Nacional dos Correios in one further iteration of the project—“Children Da Vincis”.
Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Peasant Da Vincis (Da Vincis do Povo)” is on view in Rio De Janeiro at Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil and Museu Nacional dos Correios through September 23, 2013.