Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was selected as one of the runner-up candidates for TIMES 2011 Person of the Year Award. Ai Weiwei is known in the architecture world for his collaboration with Herzog & de Meuron, serving as the artistic consultant for the Beijing National Stadium, otherwise known as the Bird’s Nest stadium.
Ai Weiwei is well-known for his political activism, being openly critical of the Chinese government’s stance on democracy and human rights. Following his arrest in Beijing earlier this year, Weiwei was detained and interrogated for over two months without any official charges. He was then fined $2.4 million for back taxes and penalties, which he believes to have been politically motivated.
When TIME journalists Hannah Beech and Austin Ramzy asked Weiwei about what motivated him to merge the Internet with political activism, he credited his involvement with architecture.
“I got involved with architecture. To work in architecture you are so much involved with society, with politics, with bureaucrats. It’s a very complicated process to do large projects. You start to see the society, how it functions, how it works. Then you have a lot of criticism about how it works.”