Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds bought for Tate

  • 2 March 2012

The Chinese artist's magnificent Turbine Hall commission has been bought for the Tate Collection with help from the Art Fund.

Ai Weiwei, Kui Hua Zi (Sunflower Seeds), 2010 © The artist

Ai Weiwei, Kui Hua Zi (Sunflower Seeds), 2010

Ai Weiwei's magnificent Turbine Hall commission has been bought for the Tate Collection with help from the Art Fund. Sunflower Seeds, a 'politically powerful and hauntingly beautiful' work according to the Guardian's Adrian Searle, comprises around eight million sunflower seed husks hand-crafted from porcelain.

The work

Weiwei's sculpture may look simple, but Sunflower Seeds has a complex relationship with Chinese politics. Sunflower seeds are a common street snack in China, one which brings to mind the Maoist propaganda of the Cultural Revolution, in which the people of China are shown as sunflowers turning to face the leader. The work, which was created by numerous artisans reproducing the seeds on a tremendous scale, also brings to mind contemporary issues of mass production and craftsmanship .

Tate has bought just under one tenth of the seeds produced for the Turbine Hall installation, enough to arrange in a cone one-and-a-half metres tall and five metres across, the form in which it was recently displayed at the Tate Modern.

The artist

Born in 1957 in Beijing, China, Ai Weiwei was named the world's most influential artist by ArtReview in 2011. He is one of the most widely known and outspoken Chinese artists working today; his political activism resulted in his arrest by the Chinese authorities in 2011, which provoked a vocal international response.

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