Occupation: Artist, activist, architect
For 81 days last year, Ai was China's most famous missing person. The artist, known for his politically outspoken pieces and his work as an artistic consultant on Beijing's iconic Bird's Nest stadium, was detained April 3 and held virtually incommunicado. While the arrest punctured the idea that Ai's global renown protected him from authorities, the aftermath only underscored his enduring fame: after his release, he paid a $1.3 million bond with loans from Chinese supporters who contributed online and in person and even tossed cash over the walls of his Beijing studio.
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