Liu Bolin (Chinese: 刘勃麟; pinyin: Liú Bólín) is an artist born in China’s Shandong province in 1973. 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.
He manages to camouflage himself in any surroundings, no matter how difficult they might be, working on a single photo for up to 10 hours at a time, to make sure he gets it just right, but he achieves the right effect: sometimes passers-by don’t even realize he is there until he moves. For more complex pictures, like a 2011 work of him blending into a magazine stand in New York, “it can take up to five days.”
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. The talented Liu Bolin says his art is a protest against the actions of the Government, who shut down his art studio in 2005 and persecutes artists. It’s about not fitting into modern society. In 2005, Liu Bolin watched as the artists’ village in Beijing where he worked was demolished by the Chinese government. In protest, he created “Hiding in the City,” a series of portraits that began when he painted himself into the wreckage of the artists’ studios.
“The work was a release, an explosion of my attitude toward society. It is very difficult for Chinese artists to earn their living; we are all martyrs of art.”
Today Liu’s portraits, where he seamlessly blends into backgrounds as diverse as a supermarket shelf, a forest, or the Great Wall of China, speak volumes about the individual and society.
The magazine Harper’s BAZAAR worked with Liu Bolin in a similar concept. In their case the photographer was Bolin and the subject photographed were celebrated designers disappearing into their own world of fashion, their work.
“So in this series, I hid each designer in his or her own designs. You think about the relationship between the world we create and ourselves.”