Liu Bolin (simplified Chinese: 刘勃麟; traditional Chinese: 劉勃麟; pinyin: Liú Bólín; born 7 January 1973) is an artist born in China’s Shandong province. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Shandong College of Arts in 1995 and his Master of Fine Arts from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 2001. His work has been exhibited in museums around the world. Also known as “The Invisible Man”, Liu Bolin’s most popular works are from his “Hiding in the City” series; photographic works that began as performance art in 2005.
Liu belongs to the generation that came of age in the early 1990s, when China emerged from the rubble of the Cultural Revolution and was beginning to enjoy rapid economic growth and relative political stability.
Since his first solo shows in Beijing in 1998, Liu Bolin’s work has received international recognition. Among other international venues, his distinctive photographs and sculptures have been shown at the major contemporary photography festival Les Rencontres d’Arles and he had solo shows at Dashanzi Art Zone in Beijing (2007), Galerie Bertin-Toublanc in Paris (2007), Klein Sun Gallery in New York (2008), Galerie Paris-Beijing in Paris and Brussels (2013), Boxart Gallery in Verona (2008), Forma Foundation for Photography in Milan (2010).
To celebrate US President Obama’s visit to China, he made an effigy of Obama in his honor.
He now lives and works in Beijing, China.
Liu Bolin is represented by Klein Sun Gallery in New York, NY. Galerie Paris-Beijing in Paris and Brussels.
In June 2011, Liu Bolin created his Hiding in New York series, in which he incorporated iconic New York sites into his work.
In January 2013, Bolin created the artwork for New Jersey hard rock band Bon Jovi’s 2013 album What About Now.
China Report 2007
In response to the constantly changing nature of Chinese society as it undergoes rapid growth and development, Liu Bolin drew from media representations of China’s ephemeral modern identity to create his series “China Report 2007”. Choosing photographs from official newspapers that covered stories of environmental calamity,
infrastructural construction and demolition, and social instability and transition, Liu Bolin sought not to portray his own interpretation of the changes China underwent that year, but to capture the official Chinese media’s presentation of these changes to the Chinese public.
Liu focused on the seeming contradiction between the Chinese media’s positive emphasis on the strength of the country’s military and the capability of its government and the downplayed coverage of devastating natural disasters and increasingly problematic social issues. By painting these media photographs,
Liu surpasses mere historical documentation and explores the layers of acquired meaning within such images. He examines the ways in which the real events depicted can serve new purposes, fitting alternatively the agenda of official mouthpieces and the interpretations of individuals who search for a constant identity in a transitional society.
Hiding in the City
Bolin was moved to create his “Hiding in the City” series after the Chinese Beijing artist village Suo Jia Cun in November 2005. At the time of this destruction, Liu Bolin had been working in Suo Jia Cun, which had been previously named Asia’s largest congregation of artists. Prompted by his emotional response to the demolition of this site, Liu decided to use his art as a means of silent protest, calling attention to the lack of protection Chinese artists had received from their own government.
Through the use of his own body in his practice of painting himself into various settings in Beijing, Liu created a space for the Chinese artist, preserving their social status and highlighting their often troubled relationship with their physical surroundings.
In his work, Liu has always given special attention to the various social problems that accompany China’s rapid economic development, making social politics the crux of his pictorial commentaries. In “Hiding in the City”, Liu made one of his particular focuses slogans as an educational tool used within Communist societies, pointing out that many people become used to the slogans over time and cease to pay conscious attention to these messages’ effects on the public’s thinking.
By painting his body into some such slogans, Liu forces the viewer to acknowledge the messages and, in the process, to reconsider the circumstances of one’s own life.
The “Hiding in the City” series has inspired similar subsequent series by Liu Bolin. In particular, “Shadow” draws on the same concept of the helplessness of the individual; however, instead of taking the individual in the face of society as its focal point, “Shadow” explores the relationship of the individual to its natural environment.
Rather than painting himself into the background of various man-made structures, as he did in “Hiding in the City”, here Liu lay on surfaces during periods of rain, keeping the space directly below his body dry. The flat human figure created by his presence always quickly disappeared when Liu moved away, demonstrating the extent to which humans are helpless before their environment.
(The British artist Andrew Goldsworthy has also used the same technique, albeit in a natural environment.)
Liu Bolin followed up his Beijing series of “Hiding in the City” with two derivative series of performances captured in Venice and New York City. Following the method of painting himself into the cityscapes, Liu chose Venice for its significance within the Western art tradition and New York City for the potency of the underlying conflicts between humans and the objects they create.
In service to this project, Liu painted himself into such socially-loaded backgrounds as Wall Street and the Tiles for America 9/11 memorial.
In February 2012, Klein Sun Gallery, which represents the artist, announced a collaborative project between Liu Bolin and designers Gaultier, Valentino, Lanvin and Missoni that was featured in the March 2012 issue of Harper’s Bazaar magazine.
Following the success of his series of works camouflaging prominent people into backgrounds, he collaborated with the French art star JR. He was also featured as a prominent artist in a Newsweek profile titled Eli Klein on Riding the Wave of China’s Contemporary Art Scene.
2013 “Liu Bolin”, Galerie Paris-Beijing, Paris, France
2012 “Liu Bolin: Hide in the City,” Multimedia Art Museum Moscow
2011 “Hiding in the City”, Galerie Paris-Beijing, Beijing, China
2011 “The Invisible Man,” Klein Sun Gallery, New York, NY
2011 “The Invisible Man,” Vänermuseet, Lidköping, Sweden
2011 “The Invisible Man,” Fotografiska Stockholm, Sweden
2011 “Hiding in Italy,” Forma Centro Internazionale Di Fotografia, Milano, Italy
2010 “Hiding in the City,” Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, Venezuela
2010 Sunshine International Art Museum, Songzhuang, Beijing, China
2010 “On Fire,” Klein Sun Gallery, New York, NY
2008 “China Report 2007,” Klein Sun Gallery, New York, NY
2007 “Sculpture,” Dashanzi Art Zone, Beijing, China
2007 “Distortion,” Dashanzi Art Zone, Beijing, China
1998 Haiyang Works Exhibition, Yantai, China 2011 Fotográfica Biennale, Museo de Fotografía, Bogotá, Colombia
2011 “Black and White,” Zero Field Art Center, Beijing, China
2010 “The Right to Protest,” Museum on the Seam, Jerusalem, Israel
2010 “Reflection of Minds,” Shanghai MoCA, Shanghai, China
2010 “Passing China,” Sanatorium, Istanbul, Turkey
2010 “HomeLessHome,” Museum on the Seam, Jerusalem, Israel
2010 “Armed & Dangerous: Art of the Arsenal,” Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA
2009-10 “Animamix Biennial,” Shanghai MoCA, Shanghai, China; Today Art Museum, Beijing, China; Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China
2009 “Shore – Contemporary Academy Sculpture Exhibition,” Moon River Art Museum, Beijing, China
2009 “Blank – Making China,” Zhongjian Art Museum, Beijing, China
2009 “International Contemporary Art Invitational Exhibition,” Seoul Art Museum, Seoul, Korea
2009 “Erotic – Contemporary Art Invitational Exhibition,” Dadi Rui City Exhibition Center, Jinan, China
2009 “The Big World: Recent Art from China,” Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, USA
2009 “Passing By China,” Klein Sun Gallery, New York, NY
2009 “Camouflage,” La Casa Encendida, Madrid, Spain
2008 “Mixed Maze – Group Photography Exhibition,” Red Mansion Foundation, London, UK
2008 “New Middle Kingdom,” Royal Liver Building, Liverpool, UK
2008 “Force-Form,” International Contemporary Art Exhibition, Bridge Art Center, Beijing, China
2008 Sunshine International Art Museum, Songzhuang, Beijing, China
2007 “Olympic Landscape Sculpture Exhibition,” Beijing, China
2007 “Les Rencontres d’Arles,” Arles, France
2007 “Made in China – Chinese Contemporary Art,” Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai, China
2007 “Union – Exhibition of Chinese and Chile Artists,” No. 1 China Art Base, Beijing, China
2007 “Union in June,” Chinese Performance Art Exhibition, Songzhuang, Beijing, China
2007 “Resettling – Suo Jia Village Modern Art Exhibition,” Beijing International Arts Camp II Ka Tsuen, Beijing, China
2007 “The First ‘Breathing’ – Shandong Modern Art Exhibition,” Shandong Museum, Shandong, China
2006 Songzhuang Art Festival, Songzhuang Art Zone, Beijing, China
2006 “Qingzhou International Contemporary Art Exhibition,” Qingzhou Museum, Shandong, China
2006 “Third Contemporary Art Exhibition,” Sunshine International Museum, Beijing, China
2006 “Contemporary Art Exhibition of Dismantle,” Xiyuantianlu Business Hotel, Beijing, China
2005 “Beijing Calligraphy Exhibition,” Maside Art Center, Beijing, China
2005 “Lead Times,” Chang Chau Chinese Contemporary Sculpture Exhibition, Tianjin Harbor Plaza, Tianjin, China
2005 “Di-Di-Dismantle,” Beijing International Arts Camp II Ka Tsuen, Beijing, China
2005 “Considerable,” West Lake International Sculpture Exhibition, Hangzhou Fine Art Museum, Hangzhou, China
2001 “The Second Invitational Sculpture Exhibition of Contemporary Young Sculptors,” Hangzhou Fine Art Museum, Hangzhou, China
2001 “Works Exhibition,” The First China Sculpture Competition, China
2000 “The Second Metals Work Exhibition,” Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China
Liu Bolin, Thircuir Books, 2012.