- - Monday, March 5, 2012

Britain’s Tate gallery has bought a work by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei made up of 8 million porcelain sunflower seeds - a portion of the 100 million he brought to London in 2010.

Tate said Monday that it had purchased “Sunflower Seeds 2010” - 13 cubic yards of seeds, handcrafted by Chinese artisans, which can be displayed either as a conical pile or as a square or rectangular bed, the Associated Press reports.

The gallery did not disclose the price. Last year, Sotheby’s auction house sold a 220-pound bag of the seeds for $550,000.

In 2010, Mr. Ai covered the floor of a 10,000-square-foot hall at London’s Tate Modern with almost 100 million of the seeds. Visitors initially were invited to walk or lie on them, but after a few days the ceramic dust was judged a health hazard and the exhibit was cordoned off.

It still proved a hugely popular show. The gallery said the seeds, a common Chinese street snack, represented friendship and compassion, raised questions of individualism and evoked the enforced conformity of the Cultural Revolution, when propaganda posters depicted Chairman Mao as the sun and Chinese people as sunflowers turning toward him.

The bearded and burly Mr. Ai, 54, has exhibited widely in Europe and the United States and last year was named the world’s most powerful artist by Britain’s Art Review magazine.

His social activism has brought him into conflict with the Beijing authorities. In 2011, he was detained for almost three months during a wider crackdown on dissent, and has since been investigated for tax evasion.

Pippa Middleton finishes 56-mile ski marathon

Pippa Middleton has completed a 56-mile cross-country ski marathon in Sweden - taking a respectable 412th place in the women’s category, the Associated Press reports.

The sister of the Duchess of Cambridge - the former Kate Middleton - finished the Vasaloppet ski race in 7 hours, 13 minutes, 36 seconds, alongside 15,800 competitors in bright sunshine.

Miss Middleton told Swedish broadcaster SVT she had only prepared for the race for “a couple of weekends” and admitted it was tiring.

Miss Middleton and her brother, James, who clocked in at 6 hours, 47 minutes, 27 seconds, raced to raise money for children’s charity Magic Breakfast.

The competition is one of the world’s oldest cross-country races and is based on Gustav Vasa’s attempt to gather peasants for a revolt against occupying Danes in 1522.

The winner finished in 3 hours, 38 minutes, 41 seconds.

‘Star Wars’ designer dies at age 82

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