Just Don’t Eat Them: Ai Weiwei Drops Off 100 Million Sunflower Seeds at the Tate Modern

Since yesterday we made a departure from our regular posts about Prince Charles being a Scrooge-like, anti-modernism naysayer and instead talked about the good one of his charities is doing in Haiti, we ran into another occasion to talk about someone else in a new context. Artist Ai Weiwei, who we’ve usually brought up either because he’s protesting against injustices in his native China or is being beaten by the Chinese police for doing just that, has made a big splash this week with the opening of his installation at the Tate Modern, “Sunflower Seeds.” The name implies what you’ll see upon entering it’s new home in the museum’s Turbine Hall, but you’ll learn that all 100 million seeds were hand-painted by residents and workers in the relatively-average-sized city in China, Jingdezhen. As the Guardian‘s Adrian Searle writes in his five-star review of the piece, “You can trudge over them, walk or skip or dance on these seeds, all of them Made in China.” Though with that much openness, it begs the question, “Aren’t people going to steal some?” Weiwei answered just that in this story by Charlotte Higgins:

“If I was in the audience I would definitely want to take a seed. But for the museum, it is a total work, and taking a seed would affect the work. Institutions have their own policies. But I know I would want to take a seed,” he said, somewhat equivocally.

It sounds stellar, and it’s terrific to be talking about Weiwei’s work instead of something tragic or troubling. For a better look, the paper also shot these great photos of the piece, which are definitely worth your while.