Ai sunflower seeds bought by British gallery
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.