Cai Guo-Qiang’s Debut NFT Drop Sold for $2.5M on TR Lab: A Record Number for NFTs from a Non-crypto-native Artist

At 21:16 Hong Kong time, July 14, 2021, internationally acclaimed artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s debut NFT drop Transient Eternity — 101 Ignitions of Gunpowder Paintings, commissioned by Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai, sold for 2,500,000 USD in a 48-hour online auction hosted by TR Lab. The NFT will continue to be on display through TR Lab’s online portal until August 14th, 2021 (UTC+8).

Screenshot of Transient Eternity’s auction result on TR Lab’s online platform, 2021

There was incredible competition from international collectors, with the leading bid reaching 99,999 USD in only three minutes. The energy escalated in the last hour, resulting in the extension of the auction by 16 minutes. The winning bid is a record number for NFTs from a non-crypto-native artist.

Screenshot of Transient Eternity’s partial bidding history on TR Lab’s online platform, 2021

Half of the auction proceeds will go to TR Lab’s collaborator on this project Rockbund Art Museum in support of the museum’s development and digital art research program RAM+. RAM+ is an extension from the museum’s physical space into the digital world — bringing unique expertise in art and a commitment to sustainable values by supporting selected artists to engage with the possibilities of digital art, and activating a curatorial approach to emerging digital ecology. RAM+ will initiate projects such as symposiums, commissions, virtual exhibitions and performative events, online publications, research and collective learning programs to embrace this new landscape and to foresee the transformative changes in contemporary art.

Cai Guo-Qiang watches the ignition of a gunpowder painting at the Salón de Reinos (Hall of Realms), Madrid, 2017 © Museo Nacional del Prado

Larys Frogier, the director of Rockbund Art Museum, states: “Cai has demonstrated ongoing support for Rockbund Art Museum — he was the very first artist to open the museum in 2010 and ten years later, launched RAM+, a new platform dedicated to digital art, with his first NFT piece. I would like to express my profound gratitude to the artist Cai Guo-Qiang and also to TR Lab. It truly is an incredible opportunity to push for new frontiers in curatorial practices.”

Cai Guo-Qiang, Never Learned How to Land, 2010. Installation view of “Peasant da Vincis”, Rockbund Art Museum, 2010

The other half of the auction proceeds will go to Cai Foundation, primarily in support of the Asian Cultural Council (ACC) Cai Fellowship Program, which funds young Chinese artists studying in the United States. Cai Guo-Qiang came to New York from Japan in 1995 with the generous support of the ACC, which allowed him to develop his art on a wider, international stage. Cai and his wife Hong Hong Wu later established the ACC Cai Fellow Program, which has sponsored 17 young Chinese artists and scholars since 2012, enabling them to further their studies in the United States. Cai Foundation is dedicated to advancing the following ideals and practices: interdisciplinary artistic practice, cultural exchange among different social systems, relationships between social art and politics, artistic creativity of the public and nonprofessional artists, research that addresses overlooked artists and art history, studies on individual artistic methodology, and the development of eco-friendly pyrotechnical products.

The Century with Mushroom Clouds: Project for the 20th Century, Cai Guo-Qiang’s first project realized in the United States with the support of Asian Cultural Council (ACC), Nuclear Test Site, Nevada, 1996. Courtesy Cai Studio

Cai comments, “Transient Eternity is the existence of the explosion moment itself — not the videos or photographs with which the ignition instant to be preserved in the traditional sense, or the physical gunpowder painting that was born from the ignition…While I’m still exploring the virtual world of NFT, the 2.5 million auction result is substantial, so will be the growth and development of young Chinese artists who benefit from the auction’s proceeds. My deep gratitude goes to Xin and TR Lab’s hard work. Thank you to the collector for their support!”

Mr. and Mrs. Cai Guo-Qiang with then-Director of the Dunhuang Academy Fan Jinshi (third from left) and Dunhuang Foundation President Mimi Gates (third from right) at a Cai Foundation fundraising event to support the Dunhuang Academy and Dunhuang Foundation, New York, 2012. Courtesy Cai Studio

This auction was brought to life by crypto financial service providers Amber Group, Babel Finance, and Matrixport, and supported by Christie’s, Dragonfly Capital and ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair.

TR Lab is happy to be one of Amber Group’s first CreatorFi (Creator Finance) initiatives, a new way to help creators plan their NFT journey by bridging conversations between creators, collectors, and marketplaces in the NFT ecosystem. Amber Group supported TR Lab’s launch with tailored end-to-end crypto finance solutions including minting and NFT custody, as well as facilitating transfer, settlement, and trading needs for its artists and collectors.

Ignition of Cai Guo-Qiang’s gunpowder painting on glass and mirror, Non-Brand 非品牌 5. Photo by Sang Luo, courtesy Cai Studio

Xin Li-Cohen, the Chairwoman of TR Lab, remarks: “As TR Lab’s debut auction, Transient Eternity’s strong performance represents our ability in offering extraordinary works from leading artists to the most prominent collectors. It was our pleasure to bring to life Cai’s vision in challenging the linearity of time using blockchain technology, achieving not only a succession but also a transcendence of his oeuvre, and we are thrilled to have received such exhilarating reception from NFT and art collectors alike. As we continue to bridge the art and crypto worlds, this is just the beginning of a new journey.”

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Learn more about “Transient Eternity” from our media archives: [Media Kit] TR Lab to Debut NFT Drop by Renowned Artist Cai Guo-Qiang With Charity Auction TR Lab;[WeChat Announcement] TR Lab起航,义拍著名艺术家蔡国强首件NFT作品

About Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo-Qiang (b. 1957, Quanzhou, China) was trained in stage design at the Shanghai Theatre Academy, and his work has since crossed multiple mediums within art including drawing, installation, video, and performance. Cai began to experiment with gunpowder in his hometown Quanzhou. He continued exploring its properties while living in Japan from 1986 to 1995, which led to his signature outdoor explosion events. Drawing upon his sentiments toward the cosmos, Eastern philosophy, and contemporary social issues as a conceptual basis, his artworks, which are often site-specific, respond to culture and history to establish an exchange between viewers and the larger time-space around them. His explosion art and installations are imbued with a force that transcends the two-dimensional plane to engage with society and nature.

Cai was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 1999, the Hiroshima Art Prize in 2007, and the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 2009. In 2012, he was honored as a Laureate for the prestigious Praemium Imperiale, which recognizes lifetime achievement in the arts across categories not covered by the Nobel Prize. The same year, he was named as one of the five artists to receive the first U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts for his outstanding commitment to international cultural exchange. His recent honors include the Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation Award in 2015, the Bonnefanten Award for Contemporary Art (BACA), the Japan Foundation Awards, and the Asia Arts Award Honoree in 2016, and the 2020 Isamu Noguchi Award. Cai also served as Director of Visual and Special Effects for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Cai’s many solo exhibitions and projects over the past three decades include Cai Guo-Qiang on the Roof: Transparent Monument at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2006 and his retrospective I Want to Believe at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York in 2008. Cai Guo-Qiang: Peasant da Vincis toured to three cities in Brazil in 2013, attracting over one million visitors. The Rio de Janeiro iteration became the most visited exhibition by a living artist worldwide that year. In June 2015, Cai created the explosion event Sky Ladder in his hometown Quanzhou. The artwork became the centerpiece of the Netflix documentary Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang, directed by Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald.

His recent major projects include those related to his Individual’s Journey Through Western Art History, and the explosion event Encounter with the Unknown: Cosmos Project for Mexico in 2019. His solo exhibition Odyssey and Homecoming was on view at the Palace Museum, Beijing, from December 2020 to February 2021. Co-hosted by the Beijing Winter Olympics Committee and the Palace Museum, the exhibition marks the culmination of his Individual’s Journey Through Western Art History. Odyssey and Homecoming toured to the Museum of Art Pudong in Shanghai as one of its inaugural exhibitions, and is on view between July 8, 2021 and March 7, 2022.

He currently lives and works in New York.

For more information, please visit:,; Instagram: caistudio; Wechat official account: 蔡国强工作室

About TR Lab

TR Lab is a platform for discovering and collecting NFT art from the world’s leading artists. Our mission is to offer extraordinary NFT works to collectors and art lovers alike, as well as to empower the next generation of the art community by unlocking access to groundbreaking projects. In addition to our auction platform and concierge team, we offer end-to-end service for both artists and collectors to engage with NFT art from digital production to direct issuance.

The full name of TR is Tabula Rasa, a Latin expression meaning “blank slate.” We believe NFTs will fundamentally change art ownership and provenance. We are dedicated to collaborating with the leading artists to explore all possibilities of this medium. Our ultimate aim is to elevate the landscape of NFT art with a strong curatorial mission, and showcase NFT art from a roster of world-leading artists and exclusive collaborators.

TR Lab has strong roots in both art and crypto worlds: it is jointly established by Dragonfly Capital, Xin Li-Cohen, Christie’s Non-Executive Deputy Chairman, as well as the founders of Artsy, Shanghai Rockbund Art Museum, and ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair. We are a distributed team with members spanning three continents and 5 timezones.

For more information, please visit:

About Rockbund Art Museum

Inaugurated in 2010, Rockbund Art Museum is a contemporary art museum located on the Bund in Shanghai. The museum is housed in a heritage Art Deco building that originally was one of the first modern museums to be established in China. In 2019, Rockbund Art Museum has become an officially registered non-profit arts organization in Shanghai.

Distinguishing itself from the entrenched conditions of continental or nationality based organizations, Rockbund Art Museum is developing an oceanic vision of contemporary art. We aim to explore the importance of seas and archipelagos across Asia in order to unfold richer perspectives into today’s challenges, practices and networks within the art world. We wish to build constructive paradoxes within multiple localities in Asia and different cultures globally, opening spaces to enable free expression for artists, researchers and curators, and to dive into subtle and dense layers of new experiences with our audience.

With a strong reputation for our innovative curatorial approach, we look to conceive different art projects from research to alternative learning programs, from exhibition-making to unexpected para-performative formats. By supporting bold contemporary art practices, we aim to continually remake local histories, whilst also responding to global art challenges and social mutations.​

We regard the role of exchange as an essential process required for a wider transformation to occur by building up a network of multi-regional, international and cross-disciplinary partnerships. Through this process, we aim to cultivate a diverse and deep-rooted connection to our audiences, communities, and also different social and cultural organizations. With powerful support from our board, patrons and Advisory Committee, we strive to observe, learn, and search for breakthroughs and opportunities to develop art projects in pursuit of a unique vision of life.

The brand-new digital museum RAM+ of Rockbund Art Museum is an extension from the museum’s physical space into the digital world — bringing unique expertise in art and a commitment to sustainable values by supporting selected artists to engage with the possibilities of digital art, and activating a curatorial approach to emerging digital ecology. Accelerated within the pandemic context, the association of digital art with NFT art offers new parameters in the digital art field. Beyond the art market and cryptocurrency community, how can an institution support the artistic creation of digital and NFT artists? RAM+ will initiate projects such as symposiums, commissions, virtual exhibitions and performative events, online publications, research and collective learning programs to embrace this new landscape and to foresee the transformative changes in contemporary art.

For more information, please visit:

About Amber Group

Amber Group is a leading global crypto finance service provider operating around the world and around the clock with a presence in Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, and Vancouver. Founded in 2017, Amber Group services over 500 institutional clients and has cumulatively traded over $500 billion across 100+ electronic exchanges, with over $1.5 billion in assets under management. In 2021, Amber Group raised $100 million in Series B funding and became the latest FinTech unicorn valued over $1 billion.

For more information, please visit:



TRLab is a fine art NFT platform. We fuse NFT technology with fine art expertise to pioneer the future of collecting.

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TRLab is a fine art NFT platform. We fuse NFT technology with fine art expertise to pioneer the future of collecting.