Ai Weiwei is the most powerful figure in the art world, according to ArtReview's annual Power 100 list, released on Thursday.

The 54-year-old Chinese contemporary artist is only the second artist to top the list in the magazine's history. He joins past winners Larry Gagosian and Hans Ulrich and Damien Hirst, who ranked first overall in 2010, 2009 and 2008, respectively.

Ai, who is also an outspoken political activist, is perhaps most famous in the art world for his Olympic Bird's Nest stadium in 2008 and most recently, his 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds exhibition at the Tate Modern gallery in London.

The new title is a stark contrast to what Ai experienced earlier this year.

Moments before a flight to Hong Kong in April, the artist was arrested at a Beijing airport. He was detained for 81 days while his studio was searched by the Chinese government. Members of his family and staff were also interrogated.

With ArtReview's 2011 list, the Chinese Foreign Ministry is already criticizing the magazine's ranking and process.

China has many artists who have sufficient ability. We feel that as election that is based purely on a political bias and perspective has violated the objectives of the magazine, ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told Reuters.

Ai Weiwei's number one ranking is the direct result of his efforts to expand the territory and audience for contemporary art practice by breaking down the barriers between art and life, ArtReview said in a statement.

In recent months, Ai has been fairly inconsistent in obeying the conditions of his June release. While he is strictly prohibited to use the Internet and to be interviewed by journalists, the artist has been an active Twitter user, with the most recent tweet posted on Oct. 3.

And on Thursday, he spoke about the new title of most powerful.

I don't feel powerful at all. I'm still under this detention, Ai told BBC News.

Maybe being powerful means to be fragile . . . this kind of conversation today I am doing is a violation. I think it may bring me very big trouble, he later added.

Here are the top 10 most powerful art figures in the world, according to ArtReview. Visit the magazine's Web site for the full list.

1) Ai Weiwei, China, artist
2) Hans Ulrich Obrist, Switzerland, gallery director; Julia Peyton-Jones, gallery director
3) Glenn D. Lowry, U.S., museum director
4) Larry Gagosian, U.S., gallerist
5) Anton Vidokle, Russia; Julieta Aranda, Mexico; Brian Kuan Wood, U.S., art network group partners
6) Nicholas Serota, Britain, museum director
7) Cindy Sherman, U.S., photographer
8) Iwan Wirth, Switzerland, gallerist
9) David Zwirner, Germany, gallerist
10) Beatrix Ruf, Germany, curator