The face-down corpse that is supposed to look like the famous Chinese artist was displayed at a gallery in the 9,000 person town Bad Ems from October to November 1. Created by artist He Xiangyu, it was supposed to keep Ai in the headlines and honour his commitment to justice in an ironic way.
But townspeople were so disturbed by the sight visible through a window that they called police multiple times, with some mistaking it for a real corpse. One passer-by even made a formal complaint with police, complaining that the art had been made with plastinated human skin.
Prosecutors, however, said that the body wasn’t real and there was no indication of any criminal offence.
Ai’s well-known work has included everything from sculptures to being retained as a consultant for architecture during the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
But he has also run afoul of Chinese authorities multiple times. He’s criticized the Olympics and helped investigate student deaths during a 2008 earthquake in China.
In April he was harassed and detained by the Chinese government on alleged tax evasion charges before being released on bail in the summer.
His arrest sparked of criticism around the world, including in Germany where the Berlin University of the Arts offered him a guest professorship.