Dust up at Tate: Ai Weiwei work closed to public

A girl plays on the new installation by Ai Weiwei entitled 'Sunflower Seeds', at its unveiling in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern gallery, in London October 11, 2010. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s installation in the giant turbine hall of London’s Tate Modern gallery has been closed off to the public over concerns that it is causing dangerous levels of dust.

“Sunflower Seeds,” part of the high-profile Unilever Series which invites artists to fill the cavernous space each year, consists of some 100 million individually made porcelain seed replicas, and visitors were invited to walk across them.

“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 said in a statement.

“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.”

The work has been seen as Ai’s commentary on living in a densely populated country where individualism can be lost, as well as his interpretation of the inter-connectedness of millions of people over the internet.

Even before the dust debacle, there were concerns that some members of the public were stealing the seed replicas.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Steve Addison