ArtReview magazine has ranked Ai Weiwei number one in its tenth annual list of “the dancers who’ve spent the past 12 months gyrating around contemporary art’s greasy pole of power”. Ai is only the second artist to top the list, which also includes collectors, curators and critics. From The Associated Press:
The honor is the latest sign of how Ai’s fame has soared following his arrest at Beijing airport in April and subsequent 81 days in detention amid a crackdown on dissidents, lawyers, and government critics. Although freed, he remains under investigation for economic crimes and has been warned not to make public statements ….
Asked for comment, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said it would be inappropriate to consider politics in making the selection.
“I think there are many artists in China who are competent to be candidates for the magazine. If this was done with political prejudice, it would be a violation of the purpose and principles of the magazine,” Liu said.
The magazine itself disagrees, saying in its announcement of the results that Ai won “as a result of his activism as much as his art practice”. From his entry on the list itself:
… Ai’s power and influence derive from the fact that his work and his words have become catalysts for international political debates that affect every nation on the planet: freedom of expression, nationalism, economic power, the Internet, the rights of the human being.
Most important of all, Ai’s activities have allowed artists to move away from the idea that they work within a privileged zone limited by the walls of a gallery or museum. They have reminded his colleagues and the world at large of the fact that freedom of expression is a basic right of any human being. In the process,
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