Ai Weiwei’s sunflower seeds in the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern. Photograph: Tony Kyriacou/Rex Features

There was a something of an installation art mystery tonight after the sudden closure of the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, where visitors have been enjoyably trudging through and relaxing on the artist Ai Weiwei’s vast grey field of 100m sunflower seeds.

The installation was closed all day and one visitor, who preferred not to be named, said she had been told it was for health and safety reasons because of the ceramic dust the tiny porcelain seeds were creating.

A Tate spokeswoman initially said it had been closed for maintenance rather than health and safety reasons. So many people had walked through it that it simply needed “putting back into shape,” she said.

But at 5.30pm the picture became less clear when she said the installation would not be reopening this evening and a statement would be issued some time later.

The Chinese artist’s work, consisting of 100m hand painted replica sunflower seeds, has proved incredibly popular since it opened on Monday.


Mark Brown