Ai Weiwei explains his famous Sunflower Seeds

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, Tate Modern, London
Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, hand-painted porcelain, at Tate Modern, London

Insight in the background and production process of one of the most spectacular exhibitions of 2010, Sunflower Seeds by Ai Weiwei at Tate Modern. Follow Ai Weiwei to the city of Jingdezhen in northern Jiangxi, China, famed for its production of Imperial porcelain, where all of the sunflower seeds have been individually hand-sculpted and hand-painted.

Additionally, you can see Sunflower Seeds at Mary Boone Gallery right now. The exhibition opened on January 7 and is on view until February 4. Below are a few installation shots. The installation is made out of millions (five tons) of hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds. Each actual-size seed is unique and intricately hand-formed and like those shown at Tate Modern painted in Jingdezhen.

The sunflower, following the sun, is a well-known metaphor for The People during China’s Cultural Revolution. The seeds provided nourishment at all levels of society, and the ubiquitous discarded husks provided evidence of an individual’s existence. Ai Weiwei created a deceptively unified field with a large number of individual seeds. Sunflower Seeds comments on social, political and economical issues relevant to contemporary China such as the role of the individual in relationship to the collective.

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, Tate Modern, London
Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, hand-painted porcelain, at Tate Modern, London, photo by Mike Kemp, In Pictures, Corbis

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, Tate Modern, London
Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, hand-painted porcelain, at Tate Modern, London

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, Tate Modern
Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, hand-painted porcelain, at Tate Modern, London

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, Tate Modern
Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, hand-painted porcelain, at Tate Modern, London

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, Tate Modern
Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, hand-painted porcelain, at Tate Modern, London

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, Tate Modern
Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, hand-painted porcelain, at Tate Modern, London

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, detail, hand-painted porcelain, Mary Boone Gallery
Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, hand-painted porcelain, at Mary Boone Gallery, NYC

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, detail, hand-painted porcelain, Mary Boone Gallery
Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, hand-painted porcelain, at Mary Boone Gallery, NYC

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, detail, hand-painted porcelain, Mary Boone Gallery
Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, hand-painted porcelain, at Mary Boone Gallery, NYC

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, detail, hand-painted porcelain, Mary Boone Gallery
Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, hand-painted porcelain, at Mary Boone Gallery, NYC

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, detail, hand-painted porcelain, Mary Boone Gallery
Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, hand-painted porcelain, at Mary Boone Gallery, NYC

(photos #7-11 by twi-ny.com)

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