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Ai Weiwei Works for W via Webcam, Is Named Art Review‘s Most Powerful Artist

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For the last few months, since his release from a three month detainment by Chinese authorities, we’ve kept believing that Ai Weiwei is finally going to keep to the demands imposed by his former captors by removing himself entirely from social media and from talking to the “regular” media. How foolish we’ve been. At last we left Weiwei back at the end of September, and following a few months of occasional bursts of chatter, sometimes even saying directly negative things about his native China, we quoted him as saying “my situation isn’t very good” and that he is absolutely not allowed to use the internet. Yet less than half a month later, here we are again. The NY Times reports that the artist recently collaborated with W magazine, serving as the artist on a location shoot from afar, using a webcam. Though he’s kept quiet about the work, the images he help put together feature models somewhat recreating the photos of the Tompkins Square riots in the 1980s Weiwei himself had taken while he was living in New York, one of which is set to be used for the cover for the November issue. Seeing as the feature will concentrate on detainment and was shot on Rikers Island, the connection and statement to the artist’s own life seem fairly obvious. If that wasn’t enough to further wrangle Chinese authorities’ tempers, this week Weiwei was also crowned #1 in Art Review‘s annual “The Power 100” ranking. Writing that his work itself was not only remarkably successful between 2010 and 2011, like with his Sunflower Seeds piece at the Tate Modern, but that his imprisonment for his outspoken opinions makes him nearly a work of art himself. They write that his “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.” In response to this top ranking, the Chinese government has come out against his selection, telling the Wall Street Journal that “China has a lot of famous artists who are strong enough to qualify for selection by this magazine” and that the government feels that he was picked for political reasons, which “violates the magazine’s objective,” which is something Art Review has immediately owned up to, given that they had said as much in their initial write-up about why they chose him.

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