Porcelain Sunflower Seed Installation by Ai Weiwei at Tate Modern

Sunflower Seeds 2010

Chinese conceptual artist Ai Weiwei has an amazing installation “Sunflower Seeds 2010” at the Tate Modern museum in London that fills the Turbine Hall with millions of unique, hand-crafted porcelain sunflower seeds.

Sunflower Seeds is made up of millions of small works, each apparently identical, but actually unique. However realistic they may seem, these life-sized sunflower seed husks are in fact intricately hand-crafted in porcelain.

Each seed has been individually sculpted and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. Far from being industrially produced, they are the effort of hundreds of skilled hands. Poured into the interior of the Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space, the 100 million seeds form a seemingly infinite landscape.

Porcelain is almost synonymous with China and, to make this work, Ai Weiwei has manipulated traditional methods of crafting what has historically been one of China’s most prized exports. Sunflower Seeds invites us to look more closely at the ‘Made in China’ phenomenon and the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today.

UPDATE: The exhibition has been shut down due to health hazards from the noxious ceramic dust from the sunflower seeds.

Scott Beale
Scott Beale

Scott Beale is the founder of Laughing Squid and is based in New York City. When not running the blog, Scott can be found posting on Threads and sharing photos on Instagram.