Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is shown holding some seeds from his installation Sunflower Seeds at London's Tate Modern gallery on Monday. ((Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images))

An "enthusiastic" response by visitors to a Chinese artist's porcelain seeds installation has forced the Tate Modern in London to prevent the public from walking over it, as originally intended.

On Friday, the British contemporary art gallery announced that Ai Weiwei's exhibit Sunflower Seeds has been cordoned off because of the potential health hazard from a dust cloud being raised by visitors walking over the artwork.

'Although porcelain is very robust, the enthusiastic interaction of visitors has resulted in a greater than expected level of dust in the hall.' —Tate Modern

The installation, which opened to the public on Monday, consists of 136 tonnes of individually handcrafted and painted porcelain sunflower seeds spread across 1,000 square metres in the gallery's Turbine Hall.

The 53-year-old artist had invited visitors to walk across the surface of the more than 100 million porcelain seeds.

However, "although porcelain is very robust, the enthusiastic interaction of visitors has resulted in a greater than expected level of dust in the hall," according to a gallery spokeswoman.

"Tate has been advised that this dust could be damaging to health following repeated inhalation over a long period of time.… In consequence, Tate, in consultation with the artist, has decided not to allow visitors to walk across the sculpture."

Visitors will still be able to view the exhibit, which continues on display until May 2, from a walkway above the hall.

It's not the first time one of the museum's dramatic Turbine Hall exhibits has caused safety concerns.

In 2007, for instance, Colombian artist Doris Salcedo unveiled Shibboleth, which featured a widening rupture snaking across the hall's concrete floor and which, in some spots, was reportedly broad enough that a small child could fall into the fissure.

The artwork drew many curious onlookers and made headlines about a month after its official opening when it was revealed that the Tate had received reports of more than a dozen accidents suffered in Turbine Hall by unwary patrons.

A year earlier, there were several incidents involving the giant metal slides installed in the hall by German artist Carsten Holler for his exhibit Test Site and, in 2009, one man was injured inside Polish artist Miroslaw Balka's How It Is, a massive grey steel container inside which lay a vast, pitch-black chamber.


Visitors walk through the exhibit on Monday, but concern over the resulting dust has prompted the gallery to cordon off the work. ((Lennart Preiss/Associated Press))

With files from The Associated Press