China's Ai Weiwei tops annual ArtReview power list

LONDON Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:18am BST

Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei speaks to members of the media in the doorway of his studio after he was released on bail in Beijing June 23, 2011. REUTERS/David Gray

Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei speaks to members of the media in the doorway of his studio after he was released on bail in Beijing June 23, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/David Gray

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LONDON (Reuters) - Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, whose 81-day detention earlier this year caused an international outcry, has been named the art world's most powerful figure in a new ranking.

Contemporary art magazine ArtReview published its 10th annual "Power 100" list on Thursday, coinciding with the opening of the Frieze Art Fair in London which attracts many of the world's top galleries and collectors.

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, was 13th in the ranking last year.

Unchanged in second place was London's Serpentine Gallery co-director Hans Ulrich Obrist, joined by his colleague Julia Peyton-Jones this time around.

They are followed by New York's Museum of Modern Art director Glenn D. Lowry, and, in fourth down from first last year, U.S. gallery owner Larry Gagosian.

Mark Rappolt, editor of ArtReview, said the choice of Ai by a panel of experts was not a political one.

"Of course it's something about political activism that runs through the list this year," he told Reuters.

"But I think it's more about expanding the concept of art that's not really solely contained in the privileged space of museums and galleries. It's about how it engages with the world.

"It's expanding the possibilities of what you can do with art and as an artist how you can use your voice."

Ai, who spent nearly three months in detention, was released in late June after being taken from Beijing airport and held in two secret locations.

His family says he was targeted by authorities for his criticism of censorship and Communist Party controls, and Ai has remained largely silent since his detention because, under the conditions of his release, he is not allowed to be interviewed by journalists or use the Internet.

Ai is only the second artist to have topped the ArtReview standings after Britain's Damien Hirst in 2005 and 2008. Hirst continued to slip further down the "who's who" list in 2011, moving to 64th from 53rd last year.

Organisers highlighted the emergence of artist-filmmakers like Briton Steve McQueen (59) and Iranian Shirin Neshat (86) and agencies like Artangel (55), seen as key to funding art projects at a time of major spending cuts.

German artist Gerhard Richter was in 11th position up from 55th last year while Frieze founders Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover rose to 24th from 41st.

Following are ArtReview's top 10 most powerful individuals in the world of art:

1. Ai Weiwei/China/artist

2. Hans Ulrich Obrist/Switzerland; Julia Peyton-Jones - gallery directors

3. Glenn D. Lowry/United States/museum director

4. Larry Gagosian/United States/gallerist

5. Anton Vidokle/Russian-born; Julieta Aranda/Mexico; Brian Kuan Wood/United States - partners in art network group e-flux

6. Nicholas Serota/Britain/museum director

7. Cindy Sherman/United States/photographer

8. Iwan Wirth/Switzerland/gallerist

9. David Zwirner/Germany/gallerist

10. Beatrix Ruf/Germany/curator.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)

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