Creativity 50 2011: Ai Weiwei

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Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei Credit: Adam Dean/Bloomberg
Ai Weiwei, a leading Chinese artist and outspoken advocate for freedom of speech and human rights, has been detained by the Chinese government since April 3, but the impact of his work continues to grow around the world.

Last month, 12 bronze animal heads called "Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads" were displayed as his first public sculpture, at the Pulitzer Fountain in front of New York's Plaza Hotel on the edge of Central Park. The four-foot-high sculptures represent the animals of the zodiac, like ox and rabbit, for which years are also named in China.

In London, Ai Weiwei's "Sunflower Seeds" -- consisting of 100 million hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds -- is on exhibit at the Tate Modern museum. Earlier, he helped architects design the landmark stadium that became known as the Bird's Nest for the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008.

Mr. Ai, who studied art in New York, lives and works in Beijing, became increasingly critical of the Chinese government until authorities imprisoned him and now claim to be investigating him for "economic crimes."

Unable to leave China to attend the TED conference earlier this year, he secretly recorded a video for the event of himself talking about art, the internet, social change in China, and how his blog had been censored, surveillance cameras mounted outside his studio, and his name blocked from internet search engines.

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