Tate puts sunflower seeds off limits due to health concerns
The museum announced this morning that visitors can no longer walk over Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s installation because of fears of creating ceramic dust
By Anny Shaw | Web only
Published online 15 Oct 10 (News)
A child plays with the porcelain seeds in Tate’s Turbine Hall
Ai Weiwei’s Turbine Hall installation of 100 million hand-made porcelain sunflower seeds, which visitors were invited to trample over, has been declared off limits because of health and safety fears over ceramic dust. Museum-goers will now only be able to view the Tate commission from the bridge above the hall.
In a statement released this morning Tate said: “Although porcelain is very robust, the enthusiastic interaction of visitors has resulted in a greater than expected level of dust in the Turbine Hall. Tate has been advised that this dust could be damaging to health following repeated inhalation over a long period of time. In consequence, Tate, in consultation with the artist, has decided not to allow visitors to walk across the sculpture.”
Members of staff who raked over the installation during the opening on Monday night wore masks to protect themselves from the dust, which rose in plumes as they moved over the sculpture.
However, according to Ai Weiwei, Tate had expressed concern when it became apparent people were pocketing the ceramic seeds prior to the closure of the hall yesterday. “They are afraid that if it continues, people might not be able to see the the same exhibition in a month,” he said at the VIP opening of Frieze Art Fair. Somewhat presciently, when asked whether he was anxious about visitors to the Tate filling their pockets, he quipped that he was only worried people might try to eat them and then sue the Tate if they fell ill.
The closure of the Turbine Hall comes as former Tory minister Lord Young’s health and safety review, which aims to restore common sense to Britain’s compensation culture, was published this morning. The report highlighted a “growing fear” among business owners of having to pay out for unreasonable claims.