The Museo del Prado and Acciona, a Spanish multi-national committed to innovation, is presenting a new, contemporary project at the Museum. On this occasion it arises from artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s admiration of El Greco, measuring himself for the first time against the Great Masters of the Western pictorial tradition by means of his innovative and unusual artistic technique.

In order to do so, Cai Guo-Qiang (born 1957, Quanzhou, Fujian Province, China) transformed the Hall of Realms into his studio where he produced a group of eight works inspired by the memory of that former palace space and in a dialogue with the Great Masters of the past represented in the Museum. The artist’s residency, which took place in the weeks leading up to the inauguration of the exhibition, concluded with the creation of The Spirit of Painting, a monumental painting measuring 18 metres long and 3 meters in height.

This work and the other seven created with gunpowder by Cai Guo-Qiang in the Hall of Realms, in addition to nineteen made in New York, are included in the monographic exhibition The Spirit of Painting. Cai Guo-Qiang at the Prado, on display in Room C of the Museo del Prado’s Jerónimos Building.

The result is an exhibition in which visitors can appreciate the dialogue that Cai Guo-Qiang has established with the Western pictorial tradition and in particular with the spirit of El Greco. This dialogue began during his years as a student and has continued to the present day, as seen here through a selection of works that include early creations by the artist and visual memories of the journey he embarked on in 2009 with the aim of reconstructing El Greco’s travels from his native Crete to Venice, Rome and finally Toledo.

With the present project Cai Guo-Qiang aims to defend the particular characteristics that define the spirit of painting: the sensibility of the artist, his/her craft skills, and the sensation of adventure involved in starting work on a blank canvas. Through this exhibition, Cai is taking the opportunity to broaden his unique pictorial spirit and think about how contemporary art can move ahead.

The themes and works of the four exhibition rooms naturally follow a rhythmic structure similar to the Chinese compositional formula Qi cheng zhuan he.