Tate Modern Buys 8 Million of Ai Weiwei’s Seeds


The New York Times reports that London’s Tate Modern has purchased eight million of the 100 million hand-painted, porcelain “sunflower seeds” that were on view as part of Ai Weiwei’s massive installation in the museum’s Turbine Hall last fall. To wit, “the mini-version was purchased directly from the artist, officials at the Tate said, and the remaining 92 million seeds have been returned to Mr. Ai.” [Editor’s note: Emphasis on hilarity, ours.]

What do you imagine the artist is going to do with the remaining 92 million “tiny sculptures”? The Times says that an anonymous bidder paid about $5.60 a seed for a smaller, 100,000-seed version of the sunflower piece auctioned off last year at Sotheby’s. That means Ai could stand to make $515 million in total from what remains of the original stash — not a bad deal at all considering that they’ve been known to release hazardous dust and contain traces of lead in the paint. There’s also the fact that the pricey seeds were actually “made” by a group of around 1,600 artisans Ai employed in the small Chinese city of Jingdezhen. I can’t help but wonder if they’ll be seeing any of the insane profits that their work has generated.