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28 Chinese

The Death of Marat
by He Xiangyu (Chinese, b. 1986)
Painted fiberglass, silicone, fabric, human hair, and leather, Ed. 1/3

This lifelike fiberglass figure is the activist artist Ai Weiwei, who was jailed by the Chinese government in 2011. Ai was officially charged with tax evasion, but many believe that his detention was related to his works' outspoken defense of human rights and freedom of speech. While the tax evasion case was resolved in 2012, Ai remains forbidden to travel outside China.

He Xiangyu's dead figure gets its title from a famous 1793 painting by Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat. David's painting depicts the radical French politician and journalist Jean-Paul Marat in a bath moments after his assassination during the Reign of Terror. Marat opposed the French aristocracy and advocated basic human rights for the working class. David's work idolizes Marat, casting him as a revolutionary martyr.

"I was inspired by the Ai Weiwei tax evasion case and used fiberglass to make a sculpture of him. In the piece Ai Weiwei wears the suit worn by People's Representatives during People's Congress meetings and lies on the ground facing down. It at once alludes to his entrapped position and his status as an idol. It also reflects an individual's actions as well as the essential connection and speculative relation between fate and the power structure." —He Xiangyu