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13 Oct 2011

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been named the most powerful person in the art world, according to a poll compiled by ArtReview magazine.

But Mr Ai, who was released in June after being detained for more than 80 days by Chinese authorities, told the BBC he does "not feel powerful at all".

The 54-year-old is only the second artist to top the list.

The magazine said he was chosen by the panel because of his political activism, as much as his artwork.

"[His] 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," a statement said.

"It's expanding the possibilities of what you can do with art, and as an artist how you can use your voice," added ArtReview editor Mark Rappolt.

International prominence

The artist's arrest in April, as he boarded a flight in Beijing, bound for Hong Kong, prompted a global campaign for his release.

Chinese authorities said Mr Ai was detained on charges of tax fraud, but his family have always insisted it was for his political activities.

Mr Ai, one of China's best-known artists, rose to international prominence as co-designer of Beijing's "Bird's Nest" Olympic Stadium.

In 2010, he created a carpet of 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds for Tate Modern's Turbine Hall in London.

Damien Hirst, famous for his pickled sharks, is the only other artist to have previously topped the list, in 2005 and 2008.

This year second place went to the directors of London's Serpentine Gallery, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Julia Peyton-Jones.

New York's Museum of Modern Art director Glenn D Lowry was in third place, followed by US gallery owner Larry Gagosian, who topped last year's poll.


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