Chinese photographer Ren Hang has died at the age of 29, a representative for Klein Sun Gallery, where Hang exhibited work in May, confirmed to VICE. Hang primarily dealt with nude portraiture and used his friends as models. His work lead to censorship, and multiple arrests in China, but became widely celebrated across the world.
"Today we mourn the loss of Ren Hang, a talented and rising young photographer who passed away well before his time," gallery owner Eli Klein wrote on Instagram Friday morning. "@kleinsungallery was honored to host his solo exhibition last year and send our heartfelt condolences to all of his loved ones."
Hang was a self-taught photographer, who began shooting nude images of his friends while in college. He had held solo shows in China and his work was exhibited in group shows in Italy, France, Russia, Israel, Sweden, and more. Hang also contributed photography to Frank Ocean's Boys Don't Cry magazine.
Though he asserted that his work wasn't political, Hang displayed an eroticism in his work that was celebrated as a uniquely subversive statement in the context of China's repression. "I don't have a motivation," he told CNN during an interview published last week. "I don't know about others, but I'm sure I don't look at art that way."
Hang battled depression, and he sometimes chronicled his struggle on his website in a section titled "My Depression." He was in the process of working on a solo exhibition at Foam, Amsterdam at the time of his death. "I'm doing this because I still get a feeling of novelty from it," he said in the interview with CNN. "And it fills the emptiness of my heart."