Less than a week after opening, oft-arrested Chinese artist Ai Weiweis installation in Tate Moderns Turbine Hall has been closed to the public — and not for political reasons. Apparently noxious ceramic dust wafting off the 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds carpeting the large exhibition space is to blame, the Guardian reports.
A Tate representative first told the British newspaper that the closure was simply to allow a crew to enter in order to tidy up the popular installation, which needed some "putting back in shape" after crowds streamed over the work. The museum has yet to release an official statement concerning potential health risks.
This is not the first dilemma faced by Tate regarding the show. Officials have chastised visitors who have been caught pocketing the hand-painted seeds — which were fabricated in China by skilled craftsmen — although the artist has stated that he’s not wholeheartedly opposed to the minor thefts. "If I was in the audience I would definitely want to take a seed," he told the Guardian earlier this week.
UPDATE: The museum has issued a statement saying, "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."
Click here to read ARTINFO's interview with the artist about his Turbine Hall commission.