Ai Weiwei "Sunflower Seeds" at Mary Boone Gallery on 24th Street


On Saturday I went to the opening of Ai Weiwei's "Sunflower Seeds" at Mary Boone Gallery on 24th Street in Chelsea.  The sunflower seeds are handpainted porcelain.  Their creation was a labor intensive production requiring thousands of workers over several years.  Some five million seeds were produced for the project.

It premiered at the Tate Modern in London last year.  At Mary Boone, they have a portion of what was on view at the Tate, which was a much larger installation.  When it was first installed at the Tate, you were allowed to walk on the seeds.  However, it was determined that walking on them created toxic dust and after that you were not allowed.  At Mary Boone they are laid out in a long rectangle mirroring the shape of the room.  There is a margin of a few feet between the seeds and the wall and that you can walk around the seeds.  At the opening, people were sitting down at the edge of the seeds, so I took a seat to get a closer look.  There were two security guards patrolling the edge of the seeds making sure that you wouldn't disturb them.  It was theatrical in the way that monumental works of art can be.  It was massive and grey, and it reminded me of baseball, of being in the dugout chewing sunflower seeds waiting to come up to bat.  There were a lot of seeds.

Closer up.  The seeds are handpainted porcelain.  They are made in the town where they produced porcelain for the Emperor of China.  Ai Weiwei became one of the biggest employers in town for the several years it took to produce and paint all the seeds.  They are a little bigger than normal sunflower seeds but not by much.

One thing I love at art galleries is that practically every time I go, I get to take a picture with some nutcase.  This guy called that thing a 'sea rabbit.'

Seeds in a room, on view through the month.


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