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Sunflower Seeds Handkerchief by Ai Weiwei

Sunflower Seeds Handkerchief, 2013
100% lawn cotton with hand-rolled edges
16 x 16 inches (40 x 40 cm)

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This cotton handkerchief by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei shows a detailed image taken of an installation made up of ten million unique porcelain sunflower seeds. Each seed was individually sculpted and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. The seeds were displayed at Tate Modern Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space.

In 2011, Weiwei was detained by the police for 81 days at the Beijing Capital International Airport while on his way to board a flight to Hong Kong. He was eventually released on bail for fabricated tax charges. Although the bail was lifted after a year, the authorities have not returned his passport and he remains prohibited from travelling outside China. The main subject of Weiwei's art and activism is the creative imprisonment he is forced to endure, and though this scarf is but a mere drop in his body of work, it nevertheless continues this investigation in the form of a commodity.