Designed by I.M. Pei, the Suzhou Art Museum opened in 2006, timed to celebrate his 90th birthday. [The inaugural exhibition included work by three contemporary artists who like Pei left China to work or study abroad: Cai Guo Qiang, Xu Bing and Zhao Wuji]. Tapping my shoulder, old Pei would always say: “How youthful you are, you walk so fast!” Courtesy of the artist

On 30 May 2015, I threw a party for Mr Pei’s 100th birthday at my studio [in New York]. Chinese people like to celebrate their birthdays early, fearing that Gods might take them away upon discovering their longevity.

Mr Pei always called me “Guo-Qiang”. That day, he said over and over, “Thank you Guo-Qiang. I will be back.” As he was leaving, he bid farewell to each of my assistants one by one, saying: “Until next time! Until next time!”

As he arrived at the door, my assistants suddenly bellowed out the birthday song once more, this time in Cantonese. Tears came rolling down everyone’s cheeks.

As a few more years came and went. I thought he would keep living in Manhattan, celebrating his birthday every year.

Alas, he ascended to the heavenly realms. It must be more fun there, to design things in the world beyond gravity.

Obituaries
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Remembering I.M. Pei

The New York-based artist Cai Guo-Qiang shares personal memories and photos of his old friend, I.M. Pei

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Cai Guo Qiang and I.M. Pei: "On 30 May 2015, I threw a party for Mr Pei’s 100th birthday at my studio. Chinese people like to celebrate their birthdays early, fearing that Gods might take them away upon discovering their longevity." Courtesy of the artist

Cai Guo Qiang and I.M. Pei: "On 30 May 2015, I threw a party for Mr Pei’s 100th birthday at my studio. Chinese people like to celebrate their birthdays early, fearing that Gods might take them away upon discovering their longevity." Courtesy of the artist