In a unique move, perhaps unprecedented for a single artwork, Faurschou Foundation has opened a large website dedicated to Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds. For his Unilever Series commission at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2010, he filled the Hall with a thick layer of handcrafted porcelain sunflower seeds—a total of 100,000,000 seeds, weighing 150 tons. Among other high points, this installation is the largest ceramic artwork in modern times.
With texts, photos, and videos, the web site gives a full overview of the versions and exhibition history of the Sunflower Seeds. A bibliography and reviews from a multitude of influential critics offer a reference for scholars, collectors, and the public. Faurschou Foundation has made this site in collaboration with Ai Weiwei Studio and the institutions that have shown this remarkable piece in its various versions.
Ai Weiwei creates ”social sculptures” rooted in contemporary Chinese society. Sunflower Seeds contains themes that are evident in other work by Ai: the relationship between the individual and the collective which is implied in Fairytale (2007), the embrace of inherited, traditional techniques in Through (2007-08), the symbolic and metaphoric application of materials in World Map (2006), and his influential and outspoken activism via social networking. Sunflower Seeds expresses Ai’s responsibility as an artist. In his words, “seeds grow…The crowd will have its way, eventually.”
In the 70’s and 80’s, Ai Weiwei was a protagonist in a dynamic avant-garde movement in China. His career has steadily been gaining momentum in the past decades, due to his controversial projects: his exhibition, Fuck Off, that was held in connection to the Shanghai Biennial in 2000, his participation in Documenta 2007, his design of Bird’s Nest, the Olympic Stadium in Beijing, that was built in collaboration with Herzog & de Meuron, and his Sunflower Seeds for Tate Modern. In 2010, Art Review put Ai Weiwei in the number 1 slot on their Top 100 Most Powerful People in the Art World list.
Faurschou Foundation is a privately funded art institution in Copenhagen and Beijing that was established by Luise and Jens Faurschou. For 27 years, they have mounted exhibitions of internationally recognized artists both in Denmark and abroad.
Above image: Ai Weiwei with tons of his porcelain Sunflower Seeds.