Artist of the Day | He Xiangyu

He Xiangyu - The Death of Marat

He Xiangyu

The Death of Marat, 2011 Fiberglass and silica gel

Conceptual artist He Xiangyu is perhaps best known for his headline-grabbing work The Death of Marat (2011), which featured a life-like resin sculpture of the corpse of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei placed in the window of a German gallery. The title nods to the famous Neoclassical painting of French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat by Jacques-Louis David, thereby elevating Ai to the status of a tragic hero. To create Cola Project (2009), an apocalyptic landscape of coal-like dark matter, He took over an entire lumber mill and employed a team of migrant workers to boil and reduce 127 tons of Coca-Cola over the course of a year. The piece has been read as a comment on the insidious nature of globalized consumer culture. He is an admirer of Maurizio Cattelan, and he shares something of Cattelan’s irreverence. “Nothing that isn’t allowed in China cannot not be done,” he has said.

Chinese, b. 1986, Liaoning Province, China, based in Beijing, China courtesy of

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