THE GAO BROTHERS
Art: If Mao Zedong is something of an obsession for the two Jinan-born brothers -- both in their 50s -- they certainly have their reasons. Their father, a factory worker, was arrested during the Cultural Revolution and sent to the countryside for "re-education." A short time later, the family was told he had committed suicide.
The brothers have exacted a certain level of revenge on the Chairman, depicting him in their work alternately as a kneeling penitent, with giant breasts, a detachable head, and in one of their most famous works, as a firing squad of clones about to execute Jesus Christ.
"It's something I hope all Chinese people will one day be able to accept and understand," Gao Zhen told the New York Times in 2009. "We wanted to portray him as a human being, a regular person confessing for the wrongs he's committed."
Consequences: Not surprisingly, while the brothers have won a devoted following overseas, it's not easy for them to show their work in China. Over the years, authorities have raided their exhibitions, confiscated their work, and turned off the electricity to their studio. Until 2003, they were forbidden from leaving mainland China.
Prohibited from showing in gallery spaces and museums, the Gaos hold several "parties" every year where fans can come view their work in private homes. The locations of the exhibitions are revealed several hours beforehand and spread via word of mouth and text message.
Despite their incendiary reputation, the Gaos insist their work is more personal than political. "I don't consider myself a dissident at all," Gao Qiang told the Los Angeles Times last year. "I never even think about this question. I just use art to express what I want to express."