A hugely interactive piece of art has been stunted by officials at the Tate Modern this past weekend. Artist Ai Weiwei's "Sunflower Seeds" in London is composed of roughly 100 million hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds covering a vast expanse of floor to the depth of about four inches, and visitors were originally invited to wade right in. However, due to large clouds of ceramic dust kicked up by visitors, now it can only be experienced from behind velvet ropes. From the NYT:
What is the dust? The seeds, cast in porcelain, are painted with black slip — essentially liquid clay — and fired. (Some 1,600 residents of a village that once provided porcelain to the imperial court produced them over the course of several years, as documented in a video that accompanies the piece.) This process yields a matte finish that looks exactly like that of real sunflower seeds, but slip lacks glaze’s imperviousness to wear and tear.
A shame to see an epic interactive work be kept at arm's reach - we hope the Tate can find a creative way to engage people without becoming a hazard to their health.