London Jewel: TATE Gallery

London Jewel: TATE Gallery

I was lucky. I visited London many times but the trip made three years ago was the best I have ever had. I went to the TATE Gallery with my cousin (cheers buddy!)  to see an interesting exhibition of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. The exhibition was titled “Sunflower Seeds” and was placed in a Tate Modern Turbine Hall. If you missed information about it here is what was it about: the hall was filled with natural size sunflower seeds made of porcelain (one hundred million, to be precise). I know it sounds weird but have a look at the pictures and you might try to imagine it.

TATE Gallery, Ai Weiwei

TATE Gallery, Ai Weiwei

When the exhibition was opened people were allowed to walk on it, lay, jump, throw, touch, and everything else you can come up with, except for take away the seeds out of the Hall. Later, out of healthy reasons, they forbade the walking part, constructed a little fence around and so by the time I visited the museum I could only watch and touch the close to the fence seeds (just like on this picture below).

TATE Gallery, Ai Weiwei

TATE Gallery, Ai Weiwei

So, how was it?

Modern art is often controversial and the majority of us does not understand the intentions of the author. When entering the Turbine Hall I was impressed instantly due to the quantity of these seeds. I knew some details before going to this exhibition and so I knew that each of the seeds was hand made. I think that the artist here did an amazing thing: he returned to the basics. Everybody understands basic concepts of quantity or even infinity, which was most striking while watching the seeds. In the case of this particular exhibition a short movie showed in a room nearby explained pretty much everything so nobody was left without the explanation what this modern work of art is about.

TATE Gallery, Ai Weiwei

TATE Gallery, Ai Weiwei

All seeds were produced using the traditional technique of porcelain production. Each seed was taken in hand and painted. Watching millions of them is impressive enough. I think the the power of this exhibition lays in simplicity and universality. Each of us can understand what it means to watch million seeds and each of them is unique. There are no two exact copies of it. Just like humans: we are all unique. Watching people entering the Turbine Hall was fascinating. Each of them tried to do something with these seeds. I was impressed that each person- starting with small children up to the adults- got engaged with this exhibition. It was simple enough to get people involved and intriguing to catch their attention. I really enjoyed this exhibition very much. And I really hate these signs in museum saying: do-not-touch-works-of-art. Well, art in general is about touching. Good art should touch the core of human. Make us think and feel.

TATE Gallery, Ai Weiwei

TATE Gallery, Ai Weiwei

About the author

I get easily fascinated with people and places. I am passionately curious. I get often seduced with the beauty of nature. Blue sky, pure water, white snow and endless horizon seams to be enough to make me happy.

View all articles by Agata Mleczko
  • Sadly, owners of the national galleries in Poland and generally in Eastern Europe haven’t yet realised that forbidding people to touch pieces and artworks is not the way to go. In this case the ban on touching is understandable (though I was a bit upset about it when I went to see the work) as it would accumulate all the dirt and dust quickly.
    As for this particular exhibition (or installation, I’d say), context (political, censorship, imprisonment of Ai Weiwei) is key. A few months after the opening, Ai Weiwei got arrested and seriously charged in Beijing and there was an event to support him in the Turbine Hall, where dozens of people surrounded the ramp part of the hall and for 2h, slowly, step by step, were crossing from side to side. All in silence, moving literally 10cm per minute. I took part in it and it was a once in a lifetime experience.

    • THX for sharing. Do you have any pictures you could share with us?

    • Thanks for this comment. This is really interesting. I was aware of Ai Weiwei arrest, however, tried to avoid the political issues here;-) All in all, glad you liked the installation. Enjoy your day!