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article imageChinese artist Ai Weiwei brings sunflower seeds to Tate Modern

By Paris Franz     Oct 11, 2010 in Entertainment
London - Leading Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has carpeted the Turbine Hall of London's Tate Modern with 100 million hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds.
Impressive for both its simplicity and its scale, Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds (all 100 million of them) covers 1,000 square metres of Tate Modern's Turbine Hall. Together the seeds weigh 150 tons. The Guardian reports the seeds were handmade and individually painted in the city of Jingdezhen, famous for making fine imperial porcelain. 1,600 people were involved in the process.
“Historically, the town's only activity has been making porcelainware for over 1,000 years,” Ai Weiwei told the Guardian. “In modern days, however, it has become very commercialised.”
The installation has a variety of meanings in a Chinese context. During the Cultural Revolution Chairman Mao was often likened to the sun, and the people to sunflowers who turned their faces to him in adoration. Taking a different stance on the Mao years, sunflower seeds were also one of the few reliable sources of food at times of famine. Ai has also likened the artwork to Twitter, as a vast sea of ideas and communication contributed by individual people. The Daily Telegraph reports that 100 million is one quarter of China's internet users.
Tate Modern describes Sunflower Seeds as a sensory and immersive installation. Visitors can touch and walk on the seeds, as well as leave questions for the artist which he will answer via Twitter throughout the run of the exhibition.
Sunflower Seeds is the eleventh commission in the Unilever Series, a series of installations set up in Tate Modern's cavernous Turbine Hall. Previous works include Doris Salcedo's Shibboleth, a deep fissure running through the concrete floor of the building, and Olafur Eliasson's The Weather Project, which filled the space with mist and mirrors. Not all the installations have met with critical approval, but early reviews of Sunflower Seeds have been positive. Richard Dorment described it as a masterpiece in the Daily Telegraph, while Adrian Searle in the Guardian described it as “an image of globalisation both politically powerful and hauntingly beautiful.”
Sunflower Seeds is on show at the Tate Modern from 12 October 2010 to 2 May 2011. Entrance to the gallery is free.
More about Weiwei, Chinese artist, Tate modern, Porcelain
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