Exceptionally refined and with Ai Weiwei’s characteristic attention to detail, this edition for the New Museum, Kui Hua Zi (Sun Flower Seeds), comprises one thousand sunflower seeds made of porcelain and painted by hand, displayed inside a handmade glass jar inscribed with the artwork’s title and artist’s name.
Kui Hua Zi is a continuation of Ai’s practice fusing Western and Eastern sensibilities, history, and contemporary political metaphor. The sunflower seeds symbolize a sustainable way of life, and are made using porcelain, a material invented in China 1,200 years ago. The image and metaphor of the sunflower seed were omnipresent in Mao’s Cultural Revolution and often represented the Chairman himself. Packed in a modern household glass jar, this down-to-earth symbol emphasizes Ai’s combination of the common with the extraordinary. The gesture of enclosing the seeds within a resealable jar is part of his larger vision of interactivity and depicting metaphors of Chinese society. The porcelain sunflower seeds represent the one and the many, the modern and the ancient.
Ai is known for his large-scale artworks, such as his monumental outdoor sculpture Template (a gigantic construction of 1,001 wooden doors and windows from destroyed Ming- and Qing-Dynasty houses that appeared at Documenta 12 in 2007), Fountain of Light (a large-scale “crashed-chandelier” version of Tatlin’s 1919 Monument to the Third International, which appeared in the River Mersey courtesy of the Tate Liverpool in 2007), and the Bird’s Nest (the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics; Ai was the artistic consultant for design for the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron). Kui Hua Zi demonstrates the artist’s virtuosity on a small scale.
Kui Hua Zi (Sun Flower Seeds), 2009
One thousand sunflower seeds in porcelain, sculpted and painted by hand, and handmade glass jar
6 1/3 × 4 1/3 × 4 1/3 in (16 × 11 × 11 cm)
Edition of 30 with 12 APs
Inscribed with title and artist name
Published by Carolina Nitsch for the New Museum