Ai sun­flower seeds bought by Bri­tish gallery

The Washington Times Daily - - Life -

Bri­tain’s Tate gallery has bought a work by Chi­nese artist Ai Wei­wei made up of 8 mil­lion porce­lain sun­flower seeds — a por­tion of the 100 mil­lion he brought to London in 2010.

Tate said Mon­day that it had pur­chased “Sun­flower Seeds 2010” — 13 cu­bic yards of seeds, hand­crafted by Chi­nese ar­ti­sans, which can be dis­played ei­ther as a con­i­cal pile or as a square or rect­an­gu­lar bed.

The gallery did not dis­close the price. Last year, Sotheby’s auc­tion house sold a 220-pound bag of the seeds for $550,000.

In 2010, Mr. Ai cov­ered the floor of a 10,000-square-foot hall at London’s Tate Mod­ern with al­most 100 mil­lion of the seeds. Vis­i­tors ini­tially were in­vited to walk or lie on them, but af­ter a few days the ceramic dust was judged a health haz­ard and the ex­hibit was cor­doned off.

It still proved a hugely pop­u­lar show. The gallery said the seeds, a com­mon Chi­nese street snack, rep­re­sented friend­ship and com­pas­sion, raised ques­tions of in­di­vid­u­al­ism and evoked the en­forced con­form­ity of the Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion, when pro­pa­ganda posters de­picted Chair­man Mao as the sun and Chi­nese peo­ple as sun­flow­ers turn­ing to­ward him.

The bearded and burly Mr. Ai, 54, has ex­hib­ited widely in Europe and the United States and last year was named the world’s most pow­er­ful artist by Bri­tain’s Art Re­view mag­a­zine.

His so­cial ac­tivism has brought him into con­flict with the Bei­jing au­thor­i­ties.

Chi­nese artist Ai Wei­wei tosses some seeds from his art in­stal­la­tion “Sun­flower Seeds” in London in 2010. Bri­tain’s Tate gallery said it has bought a work by Mr. Ai made up of 8 mil­lion ceramic sun­flower seeds. The gallery did not dis­close the price.

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