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Did “Health and Safety” Concerns Close Ai Weiwei’s Installation at the Tate?

Did “Health and Safety” Concerns Close Ai Weiwei’s Installation at the Tate?

Ai Weiwei’s installation made out of 100 million fake sunflower seeds was intended as a commentary on the sufferings of the Chinese. And it was, in a way, especially after the Guardian reported that it was shut down over concerns that it wasn’t safe for visitors — and, we can only assume, the Chinese people who made them.

Each porcelain seed in Sunflower Seeds was hand-crafted by workers in Jingdezhen. On view at the Tate Modern, the installation is meant to honor those who suffered under the iron rule of Chairman Mao. But it was closed today over “health and safety issues” a visitor told the Guardian; the seeds are apparently emitting noxious ceramic dust.

The Tate hasn’t confirmed the report.

This isn’t the installation’s first brush with controversy. Earlier in the week, the Guardian reported that visitors were pocketing seeds, to the museum’s deep chagrin. “[Y]ou wouldn’t want to be an art vandal, or art thief, would you?” one official scolded. The artist, for the record, sees things differently: “If I was in the audience,” he told the paper, “I would definitely want to take a seed.”

[Images via the Tate] SL