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Ai Weiwei named the world's most powerful artist

14th October 2011

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been named the most powerful man in the world of art following a poll by ArtReview magazine.

The 54-year-old's place on the list was influenced as much by his political activism as his artwork, according to the publication, which noted that his words and actions have paved the way for many oppressed individuals in the art world to rise to prominence.

Earlier this year, Weiwei was detained by Chinese authorities for 80 days on charges of tax fraud, though his family claimed his political opinions were the actual reason for his arrest.

One of the conditions of Weiwei's release is that he is not allowed to speak to journalists or use the internet, but he violated the rule to speak to the BBC following ArtReview's announcement.

Weiwei said he does not consider himself powerful at all and lives by the mantra that art should not be separated from daily life.

'How do you find a way to express yourself and how do you communicate with others? Art is how we arrange our lives to deal with our living conditions,' he told the corporation.

Weiwei is perhaps best known to the UK public for his installation at the Tate Modern last year, which involved filling the gallery's Turbine Hall with 100 million sunflower seeds.

His placing at the top of the list is a rarity in the annual power index, as the spot is generally reserved for gallery directors and owners. 

Damien Hirst is the only other artist to have been named the most powerful man in the world of art, in 2005 and 2008.

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