Ai Weiwei's "Sunflower Seeds" is set for its New York debut Saturday at the Mary Boone Gallery. The installation originally premiered at The Tate in London and features over 100 million hand-painted ceramic sunflower seeds. That's right, hand-painted. If you haven't already watched this video about Weiwei's process, and the 1,600 people he employed to make the exhibit a reality, please drop everything you're doing and watch it now:
And this is what it looked like when it finally got to London:
As you can see, museum-goers in London were initially allowed to walk and play in the seeds. It was later discovered, however, that all this commotion was churning up toxic ceramic dust and visitors were then relegated to look at the seeds from behind a rope or from an observation deck. This is presumably how things will go in New York until February 7th when the exhibit ends.
2011 was a big year for Ai. His detention by government officials at a Hong Kong airport made headlines across the globe, and his fame swelled as he remained missing for a fraught 81 days. Released finally in June, Ai was hit with a $2.4 million bill for back taxes and penalties-- charges he says are politically motivated.
Time named him one of their "Persons Of The Year," Art Review named him the art world's most powerful figure, and back in New York (where Ai lived in the 80s) this past summer, his exhibit "Zodiac Signs/Circle Heads" opened in Central park.