Ai Weiwei named as world's most important art figure

13th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, detained by authorities earlier this year, was on Thursday named the world's most powerful art figure by the influential Art Review magazine, drawing Beijing's criticism.

Ai, who was released in June after 81 days in detention for "economic crimes", tops the London-based publication's annual "power 100 list" ahead of curators Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Julia Peyton-Jones of London's Serpentine Gallery.

Mark Rappolt, the magazine's editor, said that Ai "had reminded the art world of its wider political role, as an agent of protest outside the sometimes inward-looking domain of galleries and museums.

"His activism has been a reminder of how art can reach out to a bigger audience and connect with the real world," he added. "Institutions, while they are really important, can be great tombs."

Ai was detained earlier this year after he was accused of tax evasion -- a charge rights groups say was used as an excuse to silence the outspoken critic of China's Communist Party.

China's foreign ministry took a sideswipe at the magazine's decision to honour Ai, calling the decision political.

"To make a judgement from a political perspective is against the purpose and principals of the magazine," ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told journalists at a briefing in Beijing.

Ai, whose detention sparked outrage around the world, was released in June due to his "good attitude" in admitting to the charges against him, his willingness to repay taxes he owes and on medical grounds. He has diabetes.

Rights groups have said the outspoken 54-year-old was detained as part of a crackdown on critics of the regime.

The artist recently covered the floor of London's Tate Modern museum with 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds as part of an exhibition and becomes only the second artist after Damien Hirst to top the ten-year-old list.

Glenn Lowry, director of New York's Museum of Modern Art, was third in the list, while Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate network of British museums, placed at sixth.

The power 100 list top 10

1 Ai Weiwei

2 Hans Ulrich Obrist and Julia Peyton-Jones

3 Glenn D Lowry

4 Larry Gagosian

5 Anton Vidokle, Julieta Aranda and Brian Kuan Wood

6 Sir Nicholas Serota

7 Cindy Sherman

8 Iwan Wirth

9 David Zwirner

10 Beatrix Ruf

© 2011 AFP

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