Today while we were spending a day wandering around London we decided to call into the Tate Modern to see the much acclaimed Ai WeiWei’s 100 million sunflower seeds. We were amazed as we looked over into the giant turbine hall at the Tate Modern, to see a “carpet of magic” of what looked like to be a huge area of gravel covering 1000 square metres. What we were actually looking at was over 100,000,000 handmade and hand painted porcelain sunflower seeds. It was pretty staggering.
As it had just been installed at the Tate Modern as part of the Unilever series it happened to be press day so we weren’t allowed to actually walk on the sunflower seeds but we spent about half an hour admiring the scale of the project and watching various press people wander around and chat.
What totally shocked and surprised us though as we looked over at the art installation and the press bods was how many of them were just picking some up and putting them in their pocket! I watched as one lady grabbed a handful, looked around a few times amongst her peers and up at the viewing gallery, then cunningly took off her yellow scarf and wrapped her hand holding the sunflower seeds, emptying her hand into her now scrunched up scarf and then carried on chatting to people. There was also a guy dressed in a very bright blue suit who we saw a few times picking up a few seeds and popping them in his pocket. He even did it when he was chatting to a group of others. We just couldn’t quite believe that the people from the press would do something like that… I mean I can imagine it may happen with the general public, but these were privileged people who were getting a first viewing.
I am totally sure that the artist Ai WeiWei would not expect this to happen and I am sure that in China where he originates from people wouldn’t even dream of stealing some of the porcelain sunflower seeds. Ai WeiWei was there today and was holding various interviews with the press. We did speak to one of that staff at the Tate Modern who was quite surprised that people had been taking the sunflower seeds, and said that they had been having a discussion as to how to stop the general public taking any, but she didn’t think the press would stoop that low.
Anyway if you get a chance I would recommend going to the Tate Modern to see the 100 million sunflower seeds… that’s if there are any left!
Added 16/10/10 – seems like no one will get the opportunity to steal anymore sunflower seeds due to the Health and Safety fears over the dust created from the public walking on the seeds so it is all now cordoned off.