Artist Ai Wei Wei strikes a nerve

Ai Weiwei, whose sculpture representing the mythical figures of the Chinese zodiac will be unveiled Monday in New York, has been detained by Chinese authorities and accused of serious crimes. Click to see photos of some of his most influential works.

An assistant walks across the installation "Stools" in the atrium of the Martin-Gropius-Bau exhibition hall in Berlin, Germany on March 21, 2014. The worldwide largest one-man exhibition of Ai Weiwei was dubbed "Evidence" and will be shown from April 3, 2014 to July 7, 2014. The show, which is comprised of 6,000 stools, includes works that were specifically created for the Marin-Gropius-Bau exhibition.

Kay Nietfeld / DPA

Museum patrons walk past the "According To What?" exhibit at the Perez Art Museum Miami on February 18, 2014. On February 16, a person broke one of the vases in the exhibit and is facing a criminal charge after police say he smashed the $1 million vase in what appears to be a form of protest against the lack of lack of local artist on display.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images North America

Ai holds up his phone on speaker as he and journalists listen to the verdict of his court hearing at the courtyard of his studio in Beijing on July 20, 2012. After barring him from attending the hearing, Chinese courts upheld a $2 million fine for tax evasion.

Petar Kujundzic / X00150

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei opens his jacket to reveal a shirt bearing his portrait as he walks into the Beijing Local Taxation Bureau, Nov. 16, 2011. The acclaimed artist is also known for is criticism of the Chinese government, which held him for 81 days without charge. Ai's latest provocative piece was handed to him by the Chinese government: a $2.4 million tax bill that he says is a trumped-up effort to silence him. Supporters responded and sent in nearly $1.4 million to help.

Andy Wong / AP

A woman looks at an art installation named "Forever Bicycles" by artist Ai Weiwei during a media preview of the "Ai Weiwei Absent" exhibition in Taipei, Oct. 28, 2011. The exhibition is scheduled to run from October 29, 2011 to January 29, 2012 at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, and features 21sets of Ai's works, including installation pieces, photography, sculpture, and videos.

Pichi Chuang / X02348

This handout image shows Chinese artist Ai Weiwei posing with women in the nude in Beijing. Chinese police are investigating Ai Weiwei on pornography charges after his assistant was taken in for questioning. Ai told AFP authorities had accused him before of producing pornography, but he had not taken the charge seriously. The accusations apparently center on racy photographs posted on the Internet showing Ai with women, he said.

In a chat with readers, Ai Weiwei responded to a question about the depictions of nudity: "What authorities are afraid of is the naked truth, the truth about ourselves and the truth of recognition."

Afp / AFP

Ai Weiwei, a high-profile artist and ardent Chinese government critic, in Beijing on March 6, 2011. His detention appears to be part of a crackdown by the Chinese authorities that began in February amid anti-government uprisings in the Mideast.

Shiho Fukada / NYTNS

This picture taken in suburban Shanghai on January 11, 2011 shows the newly built Shanghai studio of Ai being demolished. The 53-year-old Ai, one of China's most famous and controversial artists, said the demolition was linked to his political activism.

Str / AFP

Ai Weiwei, shown here on June 30, 2009 in China, was arrested while boarding a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong on April 4, 2011, as part of a crackdown to suppress a feared uprising in China. As activists moved for a Jasmine Revolution, inspired by the protests and regime changes in the Middle East, the communist nation has begun to arrest writers, activists, bloggers and other dissidents.

Sharron Lovell

A time-lapse photograph shows spectators leaving the National Stadium of China, also known as the Bird's Nest, after the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 24, 2008. Ai Weiwei was a consultant on the building of this stadium.

Michael Reynolds / EPA

Sotheby's employee Laura Tendil poses for photographs with part of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's handmade porcelain sunflower seeds at the auction house's premises in London on Jan. 31, 2011.

Matt Dunham / AP

Workers rake the seeds of Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei's Unilever Installation 'Sunflower Seeds' at The Tate Modern on October 11, 2010 in London. The installation comprises 100 million handmade porcelain replica sunflower seeds.

Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images Europe

The animal heads, like this monkey, in Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads were inspired by an 18th-century fountain in the Yuanming Yuan (the Garden of Perfect Brightness), an 800-acre imperial retreat near Beijing.

The fountain acted as water clock, based on the 12 animals of the zodiac—the ox, rabbit, snake, sheep, rooster, dog, tiger, dragon, horse, monkey, boar and this animal, the rat.

Each animal represented a two-hour period of the day, and would spout water when its time came. At noon, all the animals would spout at once. This is the tiger.

Yi Lantai: West Facade of the Hall of the Calm Seas (Haiyan Tang ximian). Tenth in a suite of 20 engravings, “The European Pavilions at the Garden of Perfect Brightness,” 1783-1786. The fountain of zodiac heads is shown here.

1996-2001 Accusoft Co., All Righ

Ai poses amid his work "Rooted Upon," which is made of 100 pieces of trees, at the "Haus der Kunst" (House of Art) during the presentation of his exhibition "So Sorry" on October 9, 2009 in Munich.

Joerg Koch / DDP

A man points to the installation Ai's "Template" during the "So Sorry" exhibition opening at 'Haus der Kunst' on October 11, 2009 in Munich.

Miguel Villagran / Getty Images Europe

Visitors stand behind Ai's wooden installation "without title" during the "So Sorry" exhibition on October 11, 2009, in Munich.

Miguel Villagran / Getty Images Europe

A man looks at Ai's "Cube light" on October 9, 2009, in Munich.

Miguel Villagran / Getty Images Europe

Ai's "Remembering" at the Haus der Kunst ahead of the exhibition "So Sorry," on Oct. 8, 2009, in Munich. "Remembering" is a memorial to the victims of the devastating May 2008 quake in Sichuan province that killed 5,300 children. It is composed of 9,000 backpacks in five colors that write out a sentence in Chinese told to the artist by a mother of one of the quake victims: "For seven years she lived happily on this Earth."

Joerg Koch / DDP

Ai's "June 1994" photograph shows his wife in front of Tiananmen Square, where the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters took place in June 1989.

Ai's "Snake Ceiling" is a memorial to the children who died in the Sichuan quake, according to the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, where this work was shown in 2009. It is made up of about 1,000 backpacks.