Coming to the Parkway in September – Cai Guo-Qiang: Fireflies (2017)

by Cai Guo-Qiang (1957 - )

Photo Caption: Cai Guo-Qiang, proposal for Fireflies, 2015. Digital Rendering. Courtesy Cai Studio
Benjamin Franklin Parkway
September 14 - October 8, 2017

  • Title

    Coming to the Parkway in September – Cai Guo-Qiang: Fireflies

  • Artist

    Cai Guo-Qiang (1957 - )

  • Year


  • Medium

    Altered pedicabs, handmade lanterns, LED lights

Commissioned by the Association for Public Art

With Guest Curator Lance Fung of Fung Collaboratives

Major support provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage

At A Glance

  • The internationally renowned artist draws on memories of the traditional lantern festivals of his childhood for his latest site-specific project

  • Fireflies kicks off at sunset, Thursday, September 14th, with a special artist-led public performance

  • Fireflies will be on view along the Parkway Thursdays through Sundays for 4 hours each night through October 8, 2017

In September, the Association for Public Art (aPA) in Philadelphia presents a major new site-specific work by the internationally acclaimed artist Cai Guo-Qiang. Commissioned by aPA with Fung Collaboratives on the occasion of the centennial of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Cai Guo-Qiang: Fireflies invites the public to actively experience the grand boulevard as a nocturnal dreamscape conjured from the languorous movements of bobbing clusters of glowing handcrafted Chinese lanterns and groups of customized peddle vehicles.

Members of the public are invited to board the vehicles to take rides up and down the Parkway from Sister Cities Park to Iroquois Park near the Philadelphia Museum Art

Fireflies, the artist’s largest public art project in the US in a decade, runs for approximately four weekends, Thursdays through Sundays, four hours a night, from Thursday, September 14 to Sunday, October 8, 2017.

For the opening ceremony on September 14, Cai Guo-Qiang will orchestrate a dream-like light and movement performance. Employing as many as 900 luminous colorful lanterns attached in clusters, 27 customized pedi-cabs will glide along the Parkway, moving as an ensemble and sending the lanterns into swirls and bobs, creating a luminous choreography.

The key participatory element of Fireflies commences the next day, as members of the public are invited to board the vehicles to take rides up and down the Parkway from Sister Cities Park to Iroquois Park near the Philadelphia Museum Art. Others will observe the delicate aerial dance of the luminous orbs from a distance.

The lanterns in Fireflies are being handcrafted in Cai Guo-Qiang’s hometown of Quanzhou, China. Their bright, twinkling lights evoke the artist’s own childhood memories. Among them will be orb and star shaped lanterns, as well as designs of emojis; pandas, roosters and tigers; space aliens and UFOs; cars, trains, boats, submarines, helicopters, and rocket ships; and hamburgers, sushi, and donuts. Transported to Philadelphia, their various colors and shapes evoke the diverse cultures and peoples that come from all over the world to take root in the United States.

For more than 25 years, Cai Guo-Qiang’s practice has spanned a range of media in contemporary art, including drawing, installation, video, and performance art, as well as a range of Chinese traditions in medicine, art, and place making. The artist is famous for his virtuosic and poetic use of fireworks and gunpowder and has been honored with many awards, including the 48th Venice Biennale International Golden Lion Prize in 1999, the 2013 U.S. Department of State’s Medal of Arts, and the Praemium Imperiale in 2012. In 2016, Netflix released Sky Ladder, a 1 hour and 44 minute film documenting one of Cai Guo-Qiang’s most celebrated public projects.

Major support for Cai Guo-Qiang: Fireflies has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the Association for Public Art (aPA), National Endowment for the Arts, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, Prudent Management Associates, The Hess Foundation, and individual donors (as of April 2017). In-kind support provided by Tierney; Expert Events; Park Towne Place; and The Logan, Philadelphia’s Hotel. Our media sponsor is WHYY. Our partners include: Velo-Park; Philadelphia Parks & Recreation; the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy; Center City District; and The Parkway Council.

For more information, the media may contact Anne Edgar,, 646-567-3586


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