We are firm believers in art for art’s sake, but apparently oppressive dictatorships don’t always agree.
Ren Hang is a photographer in his late twenties who started taking photographs of his friends to alleviate his boredom while studying advertising in Beijing. He is the first person to admit that he doesn’t have an agenda and just likes making cool pictures, but the art critics aren’t buying it. According to them he’s a subversive genius with a critical perspective on the Chinese political climate.
Admittedly there is something inherently suggestive about naked youths posing with random objects or contorting themselves into clusters of spreading limbs. But we’re talking sexy suggestive, not lock-up-the-political-radicals suggestive.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened. Hang has been arrested and imprisoned several times by the Chinese police. His photographs have been defaced in public, his work censored and his website taken down.
Still, he tells CNN: “I don’t have a motivation. I don’t know about others, but I’m sure I don’t look at art that way.”
Baffled? Us too.
The international art scene, where Hang’s work has been free from censorship, is going wild. Mirjam Kooiman, curator of Foam gallery in Amsterdam, says, ‘It is telling us something about not only him as an artist but also the generation he’s from… He makes the work in a context that isn’t free and open’.
Ren has secured commissions from various high-fashion publications, including GQ and Gucci and all he has to say is: ‘I’m doing this because I still get a feeling of novelty from it.’