This week’s photo theme is 2017 in Contemporary Chinese Art: a look back at exhibitions that stood out to us this year, for one reason or another.
The title and curatorial conceit of Beauty Without Beards revolve around the question of how ancient Greek concepts of beauty are expressed across eras and cultures. Here this translates to mostly male, and, especially in Ren Hang’s case, mostly nude subjects. Motifs of sexual freedom and repression are cleverly juxtaposed in the hanging of the works: Ren Hang’s photos show naked young men in surreal, unnatural but formally elegant poses.
The show was good, but the main reason it sticks in my mind in December is a painful one — just over two months after its opening, Ren Hang, a 29-year-old photographer who gained international recognition for his singular approach to depicting youth in China, took his own life. His suicide sent shockwaves through China’s art and music communities, and lent Beauty Without Beards, which was also shown in Shanghai over the summer, an unsettling, posthumous weight. RIP.
Image courtesy of KWM artcenter