Ai Weiwei—artist, sculptor, and the brains behind the Bird’s Nest, the signature venue of the Beijing Olympics—was arrested by authorities two years after the final cheers of the XXIX Olympiad. Seized at the Beijing airport, police raided his offices and detained him for 81 days in a secret location. With the artist in solitary confinement unable to contact his lawyer, demonstrators around the world took to the streets, protesting in front of Chinese embassies. His alleged crime was tax evasion, but he says his real offense was standing up to the Chinese Communist Party. Now the world’s most recognizable dissident, Ai Weiwei creates work that often highlights Communist Party abuses, poking fun at the humorless regime. Under constant government surveillance, he installed his own web-cams so anyone could watch him day and night—a subversive call for transparency. A photo outside a...

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