Friday, March 2, 2012


Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds at Mary Boone Gallery February 2012

"I always think art is a tool to really set up new questions...I want people who don't understand art to understand what I am doing" Weiwei

Got it Weiwei and here's my question. Why? Why couldn't the 1600 people in the town of Jingdezhen (the porcelain capital of China), that you paid to work on the Sunflower Seed Sculpture, produce something more usable? Yes the town needed the work. Many who lived there were going bankrupt, but could they have been put to work producing something more beneficial to themselves, common man and our planet? Do we need 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds for any other reason except to look at them taking up space. You can't walk on them because they produce a toxic dust and rumor has it the paint used on them has lead in it, so it's hands off too. I'm all for meticulous process and boldness in producing something exaggerated in size, but I just keep asking myself why so many seeds?

Well to counter myself, the seeds don't just take up space, there's money to be made. In February 2011 a mere 100,000 of the over 100 million hand painted seeds were sold at Sotheby's in London. The anonymous bidder, competing against three others, ended up paying $ 559,334 for 220 pounds of seeds. 

Interestingly, when the kid walked into the gallery he could have cared less about the 4 million sunflower seeds on the floor of Mary Boone's gallery until someone who worked at the gallery intervened and gave him the full story. I dislike it when art has to be explained, I thought to myself. I feel art should stand on it's own with out explanation and then if there's more to learn, then even better for the education of it and knowing more might then enhance the pleasure of the viewing, however in this situation it worked. Now the kid was fascinated by these unbelievably real looking seeds, made of porcelain (an approx. 30 step traditional process) and learning that each one of the one million seeds were hand painted, it was absolutely mind blowing.  

The concept and process make this project remarkable to me not the total mass of it and that's why I have fallen in love and although this particular show has already closed in NYC I thought it was still worth mentioning, because even though Weiwei is Time's runner-up person of the year and in Art Review's annual Power 100 list he is named the art world's most powerful figure, many people still don't know who he is. 

So think of this as planting a seed and we're looking forward to the next time we see his work in NYC.

Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds at Mary Boone Gallery February 2012

Please watch the video link below, it's beautifully shot and shows Weiwei overseeing the production of his sculpture project. 

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