| Tate Modern in London presents the latest commission in The Unilever Series, Sunflower Seeds, by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. What seems to be an ocean of sunflower seed husks, in reality is a flat landscape of over 100 million individually handmade porcelain replicas of the seed.

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Ai Weiwei is one of the most popular Chinese artists of our time. For Tate Modern’s The Unilever Series he has been commissioned to produce a new work. The sculptural installation titled Sunflower Seeds looks rather minimalistic at first sight. What seems to be an ocean of sunflower seed husks, is in reality a flat landscape of over 100 million individually handmade porcelain replicas of the seed.

Visitors are invited to walk across the surface of the work. It’s a sensory and immersive installation, which visitors can touch, walk on and listen to as the seeds shift beneath their feet.

Although they look identical from a distance, every seed is different and handcrafted by skilled artisans. Sunflower Seeds is the largest work Ai Weiwei has made using porcelain, one of China’s most prized exports. Previously Ai has created imitation fruit, clothes and vases. Sunflower Seeds weighs over 150 metric tons, covering 1000 square meters of the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

Ai Weiwei was born in 1957 in Beijing, China, where he lives and works. He has exhibited internationally, including recent solo shows at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, and Haus der Kunst, Munich. He has participated in the Sao Paulo Biennial, Documenta 12 in Kassel, and Tate Liverpool. Ai Weiwei also founded the design company Fake Design and co-founded the China Art Archives and Warehouse in Beijing.

The Unilever Series: Ai Weiwei is curated by Juliet Bingham, Curator, Tate Modern, supported by Kasia Redzisz, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern. The Unilever Series of annual commissions was launched in 2000 when Tate Modern opened with Louise Bourgeois’s I Do, I Undo, I Redo. Since then, the following artists have created work specifically for the Turbine Hall: Juan Munoz, Anish Kapoor, Olafur Eliasson, Bruce Nauman, Rachel Whiteread, Carsten Höller, Doris Salcedo, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, and Miroslaw Balka.

Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds at Tate Modern Turbine Hall, London / UK. Press View, October 11, 2010.

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41 thoughts on “Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds at Tate Modern, London

  1. In my opinion the longer the lecture the more tenuous the artwork. However it was just enough for me to become interested in what is happening. It is a major work which shifts our global consciousness and our preconcieved ideas on manufacture and amazingly detailed as well as vast. The sunflower seeds are all lovingly crafted on an individual scale. That has knocked me out for the last four weeks.

  2. It's stupid that because of the dust from the porcelain, we can't enjoy it for what it was meant to be… As an asthmatic, I would gladly put my lungs on the line just to experience this…

  3. I am launching a community based Art force of nature, bent on the freedom of creative expression & Ai Weiwei. It's called THE CHINESE WHISPER PROJECT – look on wordpress and twitter. (Can't post links) Help to pass it on.

    Currently seeking artists in the London area for journey of inspiration across media, using the five elements as a whisper of stimulation. Pass it on.

  4. @YouNeedToHearThis He didn't do them all. From where did you get this information?
    "Although they look identical from a distance, every seed is different and handcrafted by skilled artisans. Sunflower Seeds is the largest work Ai Weiwei has made using porcelain, one of China's most prized exports. "
    It's at the description of the video.

  5. In response to the possibility of painting a million porcelain seeds, yes of course it is possible in China. We are talking about exploitation here and the Chinese are the most skilled craftsmen with least questions asked. Ai Weiwei is a good artist? or is he just a clever provocateur.

  6. @Nottinghill2010 – The seeds were crafted by skilled porcelain artists in Jingdezhen city. The did it like any other commission, were paid and supported their families with it. Maybe it was wasteful of Tate to spend the money on this commission, but hey.. they have an allotted amount of arts funding from the govt I assume, and a big portion that comes from individual donors. I don't know anything about the funding though.. maybe Ai WeiWei paid for it himself, or Chinese billionaire patrons, etc

  7. @DjTibson Not if you really think about it. These were all handmade by artists in China, a place where art and humanity is supressed. It is a playful concept that expresses a collectiveness that still thrives despite communist ideals and a lack of social networking. It's a message in the form of tiny sunflower seeds. But I'm sure you don't give much thought to the concept of art. You probably think that all art is a waste of time and resources. What a pity.

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