4. Ai Weiwei
Exhibitions: Venice Biennale 2013, Released heavy metal album
Most know that Ai Weiwei is not allowed to leave China still, so it's impressive that after a huge year of accomplishments in 2012, he's still able to be prolific and have his impact felt on such a global level. Part of this is due to the fact that he's kept an active presence online, even despite the Chinese government shutting down his blog in 2009 and Weibo account.
Most recently, Ai Weiwei shook up the art world with the release of a heavy metal album titled Divine Comedy, which he says was inspired by his time in prison. He says, "When I was arrested, they (his guards) would often ask me to sing songs, but because I wasn't familiar with music, I was embarrassed...After that I thought: when I'm out, I'd like to do something related to music."
Besides the album, he shared his Stacked installation of 760 bicycles at Galleria Continua, had a play about his life shown in London, he installed the controversial Baby Formula 2013 at the Sheung Wan Civic Centre in Hong Kong, he illustrated TIME magazine's China-themed issue, and he's shaking up the Venice Biennale with his S.A.C.R.E.D. installation (that famously brought his mother to tears) simulating his time in prison. The Venice Biennale is also where he's showing a 150-ton installation called Straight, dedicated to the 5,000+ children who died in the Sichuan earthquake.
Of course, Ai Weiwei also had videos go viral of him giving someone a haircut, and one he took of a couple fighting outside a restaurant. Coupled with his new album and general musical endeavors, which really came out of nowhere (although he did parody "Gangnam Style" last October), Ai Weiwei has maintained his roots in political work that critiques China (while being relatable to the rest of the world) and gone further to show his ability to take even more risks and progression in his work. Ultimately, all of them have paid off and impressed everyone, especially since he has been trapped in China, setting new precedents for how artists can be prolific despite arrest, censorship, and travel restriction. -Cedar Pasori