Sunflower Seeds Ai Weiwei: Tate Modern Chinese Art

Sunflower Seeds by Ai Weiwei is the most popular work of art by this world renowned Chinese installation artist. Ai Weiwei has done a number of highly respected works throughout his long career. He is the artist who designed the Bird’s Nest Stadium that was used in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. However his Sunflower Seeds have achieved the most recognition.


Sunflower Seeds Ai Weiwei Tate Modern Chinese Art

Sunflower Seeds Ai Weiwei Tate Modern Chinese Art


Ai Weiwei is known as much for his art, as his political opinions. Like other artists, he has had a share of conflict in life. He has spoken out frequently in defence of human rights in his country. According to the British Boradcasting Corporation (BBC), the artist was detained for 81 days at an undisclosed facility in April, 2011. The authorities said they were investigating him for “economic crimes” and later fined him the equivalent of 1.5 million British pounds in back taxes and fines.

The sunflower seeds are symbolic because they helped to keep people alive during months of famine. Mao Zedong had also adopted this type of seed as his emblem. Mao Zedong, who is also known as Chairman Mao and Mao Tse-tung, was a Chinese communist leader. He is thought of as one of the most important figures in the history of the world. Ai’s father was an artist, and one of the many who was executed during Mao’s reign for speaking out against the leader. He used his poetry to criticize the harsh policies of the Chinese government. According to The Independent, Ai’s father Ai Quing was held in great respect.



A team of workers creates each ceramic sunflower seed, and then paints every one of them by hand. The sculptures are realistic and are about the same size as real sunflower seeds. The porcelain pieces have been shown at the Tate Modern Gallery.

People enjoy interacting with the work of the artist. They use the sunflower seeds to build castles, and even roll around in them. This apparently is what the artist desires, as he had them installed in a giant playpit at the gallery. The seeds have been sold at auctions conducted by Sotheby’s. A single seed has been sold for as much as 28 British pounds.

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