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Tate Gallery Closes Sunflower-Seed Artwork on Health Concerns

Ai Weiwei Sunflower Seeds
Detail from "The Unilever Series: Ai Weiwei Sunflower Seeds." The installation, comprising millions of hand-crafted porcelain seeds, is on view at Tate Modern, London through May 2. Source: Tate Britain via Bloomberg

Tate Modern banned visitors from walking through an artwork of more than 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds because it might be hazardous to health.

“We have been advised that the interaction of visitors with the sculpture can cause dust which could be damaging to health following repeated inhalation over a long period of time,” the gallery said today in a statement on its website. “Tate, in consultation with the artist, has decided not to allow members of the public to walk across the sculpture.”

“Sunflower Seeds” by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, 53, opened on Oct. 12. It is the latest temporary installation in the vast industrial space of the Turbine Hall of the gallery, on the south bank of the River Thames in London.

Each seed has been individually sculpted and painted in workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. The sculpture may now only be viewed from the Turbine Hall bridge.

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