Occupation: Artist, activist, architect
Previous TIME 100 appearances: 0
The work of China's global artist Ai Weiwei is not only aesthetically thrilling but stands as a sophisticated and courageous rebuke to the ideological and consumerist ethos of the People's Republic. His design inspired the Bird's Nest, a.k.a. the Beijing National Stadium, site of the 2008 Summer Olympics. And the Tate Modern exhibited his spectacular, microcosmic "Sunflower Seeds" in its main hall. Yet his greatest influence is subversively political. After the cataclysmic Sichuan earthquake in 2008, he tweeted the names of dead schoolchildren on their birthdays to remind the world of government negligence in erecting shoddy schools. For his trouble, he was allegedly beaten by the police and required brain surgery. But his international prominence appeared to make him immune from prosecution until the crackdown of 2011, when he was detained while trying to board a flight to Hong Kong.
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