Provocative Chinese Photographer Ren Hang Dead at 30

According to reports, the artist committed suicide.

Ren Hang. Courtesy of Klein Sun Gallery.

The news of the sudden death of Chinese artist Ren Hang went viral on Chinese social media yesterday. Many people from the art world responded with expressions of sorrow for the loss of this talented young photographer and poet, who was only 30 years old.

“My friend Ren Hang left us this morning in Berlin,” wrote publisher Pierre Bessard on the Editions Bessard website. “I am sad and in shock.” Dutch publication De Morgen reports that the cause of death was suicide, citing the photographer’s “entourage sources,” according to a translation from Dazed Digital.

Ren Hang was born in 1987 in Jilin, China. He is renowned for his controversial “softcore pornography” work, which features provocative scenes of his friends in the nude. The intertwining limbs in the photos make it difficult to determine where one body begins and another ends.

Ren Hang’s artwork, courtesy of the artist.

Ren Hang’s artwork, courtesy of the artist.

In these images, the subjects’ expressions are casual yet provocative, hinting at the erotic and playful energies between Ren and his intimate circle of companions.

Ren Hang's work on the cover of <em>Aperture</em> magazine #218. Courtesy of <em>Aperture</em>.

Ren Hang’s work on the cover of Aperture magazine. Courtesy of Aperture.

Ren’s work has been included in group exhibitions worldwide, and has been beloved by fashion magazines. His work was featured on the cover of Aperture magazine in spring 2015, in its queer-themed issue.

Currently, the artist is the subject of solo exhibitions at the Foam Museum in Amsterdam, the Fotografiska Museum in Stockholm, and Stieglitz19 gallery in Antwerp. His new self-titled book, published by Taschen, features the artist’s major works from 2008 to 2015.

As seen on the photographer’s Weibo page, he was still in the middle of recruiting new subjects, and the latest update, on February 23, was about a group of his recent works for the Malaysian magazine L’OFFICIEL.

On January 27, however, Ren wrote a few words on Weibo which directly indicated his state of mind. “Wish for every year is the same: to die sooner,” he wrote, later adding, “Hope it can be realized this year.”

Ren Hang's new eponymous book for Taschen. Courtesy of Taschen.

Ren Hang’s new book for Taschen. Courtesy of Taschen.

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