Dissident artist Ai Weiwei named 'most powerful' art figure, irking China

Beijing — The Globe and Mail

Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei stands in the entrance of his studio after being released on bail in Beijing June 23, 2011. (REUTERS/DAVID GRAY/REUTERS/DAVID GRAY)

China on Thursday criticised a U.K.-based contemporary art magazine for naming dissident artist Ai Weiwei as the art world’s most powerful figure, saying the selection based on “political bias” runs contrary to the magazine’s principles.

Ai, whose 81-day detention earlier this year caused an international outcry, topped ArtReview’s 10th annual “Power 100” list on Thursday.

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Mark Rappolt, editor of ArtReview, had said the choice of Ai, famous for his “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium in Beijing and a recent installation at London’s Tate Modern gallery comprising millions of replica porcelain sunflower seeds, by a panel of experts was not political.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin was skeptical.

“China has many artists who have sufficient ability. We feel that a selection that is based purely on a political bias and perspective has violated the objectives of the magazine,” Liu told a regular news briefing.

Ai was released in late June after he was taken from the Beijing airport and held in two secret locations.

Under the conditions of his release, Ai is not allowed to be interviewed by journalists and use the Internet. He has gone largely silent since he wrote a commentary in late August, criticising Chinese officials for denying citizens their basic rights.

When Ai was released on bail, the Chinese government said he remained under investigation for suspicion of economic crimes, including tax evasion. Ai told Reuters earlier that he had not received a formal notice from the authorities to explain the allegation of suspected economic crimes.

His family says he was targeted by authorities for his criticism of censorship and Communist Party controls.

Ai has gone back to creating art, giving art direction via Skype for a series of photos for W magazine, an American fashion magazine, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

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