The immensity and scale is unfathomable unless you’re there in person. Titled “Sunflower Seeds”, the latest work from famed Chinese conceptual artist Ai Weiwei, it features more than 100 million replicas of, as the title described, sunflower seeds made from porcelain. As part of the Unilever Series at London’s Tate Modern, the exhibition carpets, at a depth of 4-inch, the largest space of museum, the Turbine Hall. The exhibit took around 1,600 skilled artisans from the city of Jingdezhen, an area known for its fine porcelain production in China, a total of 2 years to produced. Weigh around 150-ton in total, each seed was molded, fired at the kiln, hand-painted, re-fired, and repeat, a process involved 20 to 30 steps.
Though massive, scale was never foreign to Ai Weiwei’s works, most famous being the Bird’s Nest Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. In essence, the size of his works serves as a definition on its own, to be both awe-inspiring to individual and to engage the general populace. And what of the sunflower seeds? Ai Weiwei explained the sunflower was an integral part of Chinese Communist propaganda during the Cultural Revolution, where Mao Zedong was the sun and the people, as sunflowers, turned towards him. What the artist, who is also a political dissident, wanted was to bring another context to the popular Chinese street snack, as “a space for pleasure, friendship and kindness during a time of extreme poverty, repression and uncertainty.” Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds will be on display from now till May 11 of 2011 at Tate Modern.
Ai Weiwei – Sunflower Seeds
53 Bankside | Map
London SE1 9TG England
Exhibition Date: Now – May 11th, 2011