Today I was sad to read that public access to the latest installation in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern – Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds – has been limited on the grounds of health and safety:

Tate Modern closes sunflower seed exhibit to the public

Now the installation must be experienced at a distance – from the bridge high above the exhibition space – so I was very glad that I visited it on Wednesday. Then it was possible not only to ‘walk on the Weiwei’, but physically interact with it in any way that one wished.

The one million hand-painted porcelain ‘sunflower seeds’ were crunchy underfoot, and many people reacted as if they were on a shingle strand. It was wonderful to watch this family bury their three boys as if on a sandy beach, and others were stretched out or sitting and chatting while they idly filtered the seeds through their fingers.

Ai Weiwei Sunflower Seeds Tate Modern Visitors


You can see the cloud of ceramic dust rising above the boys’ feet. In fact, a cloud of dust continuously hovered in the air for a few feet above floor level and the gallery attendants, who continuously raked the edges of the seed carpet into perfectly straight lines, wore protective masks.


Ai Weiwei Sunflower Seeds Tate Modern


So I understand why the Tate took the decision to prohibit the public from walking on the installation, but I also think that it is a real shame that future visitors cannot experience it like I and the ‘Sunflower Boys’ did. Of course there is a certain irony in the public’s limitation to an artwork that speaks of the control of movement and expression in China, and art’s ability to transcend this.


boys buried in Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds Tate Modern


To read more about the installation, which will be at Tate Modern until 2 May 2011, visit:


[Photographs are copyright of the author of Molly and the Princess blog, and parental permission has been given for their publication in this blog only, please do not reproduce elsewhere].



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