"I love this work. It is a world in a hundred million objects. It is also a singular statement, in a familiar, minimal form – like Wolfgang Laib's floor-bound rectangles of yellow pollen, Richard Long's stones or Antony Gormley's fields of thousands of little humanoids. Sunflower Seeds, however, is better. It is audacious, subtle, unexpected but inevitable. It is a work of great simplicity and complexity.
The meanings are as multiple and singular as its form. Ai Weiwei has taken the lesson of Duchamp's readymade and Warhol's multiples and turned them into a lesson in Chinese history and western modernisation, and the price individuals in China pay for that.
Ai is the best artist to have appeared since the Cultural Revolution in China."
"For the 11th commission in the Unilever series, Tate Modern has offered the poisoned chalice to the Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei - and he’s come up with a masterpiece."
"In recent years, with his campaigning, Ai has shown himself to be an artist who is above all concerned with the individual and their relationship to society. This, in the end, is rather a melancholy piece. It allows us to think about those who are repressed, and of those flowers that are killed off before they have the chance to grow and bloom bright. But it’s also about our responsibilities to one another, and the energy we share, and so it contains a seed of hope. Make that 100 million seeds of hope."
"In Western art the sunflower, face turned always to the sun, is an old symbol of fidelity to God and king – to declare undying loyalty to Charles I, Van Dyck painted his famous Self-Portrait with Sunflower. In Communist China the same symbolism was used for propaganda, translated into posters showing a multitude looking to Chairman Mao like a field of sunflowers facing the sun.
But Ai Weiwei's multitude of seeds face and follow no one. They form a fragmented world, something atomised, smashed to rubble. And maybe that's what they're truly meant to portend: the fall of China's old guard, the dismantling of the totalitarian system, which will take place as surely as every tide will always turn.
Sunflower Seeds is a softly spoken message to the people Ai Weiwei loves and whose masters he contemns. Sooner or later China will have to change. One day, all those seeds will grow."
"There is the art; there are the facts; they converge in the artist's eloquent statements, available in many different forms on the web. But no matter how crucial the political context, I am glad I experienced the poetry of Sunflower Seeds first, with all its subtle nuances, before the wall-texts with their crushing insistence on statistics. Art – particularly this art, so open to all interpretations – cannot be read like data."
"Sunflower Seeds was extended beyond the Turbine Hall through Twitter. Booths alongside the work allowed visitors to pose questions directly to Ai via video, to which he replied on the Tate website. From these responses, it is evident that Ai feels the work’s role, and his role as artist, is to hint at universal questions concerning obligations, values, strengths, rights and materialism in society, and through these to challenge fixed power structures. Sunflower Seeds was meticulous, beautiful, sparse, suggestive, even emotional, but it was not prescriptive. It may have suggested connections, posed questions and inspired action, but the final interpretation, and the final decision about whether, and how, to act, was the viewer’s own."