Liu Bolin has been professionally disappearing for over a decade

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 2 - Suo Jia Village, 2005
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 2 – Suo Jia Village, 2005

Introduction: Art as a tool

Many artists find new and unique ways to focus on social issues that affect their lives and the lives of others around them. While some art meant to stand up for those who do not have the ability to speak out against injustices happening to them, art can also be inspired by events that directly impact the artists themselves. Art can be used as a way to draw attention to problems that are prevalent or hidden in society, it can be used to create space, and it can also be a tool to instigate change.

Who is Liu Bolin?

Artist Liu Bolin was born in China’s Shandong province and studied at the Shandong College of Arts and the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Bolin’s works have been exhibited in museums across the globe allowing him to gain international notoriety. What he has become most famous for is his series titled “Hiding in the City”.

How his ‘Hiding in the City’ project started

Bolin’s series began as an emotional reaction to the destruction of Chinese Beijing artist village Suo Jia Cun, in which studios were demolished. This displacement of artists serves as an example of the precarity in which artists in China face. “Hiding in the City” was Bolin’s silent protest of the destruction of Suo Jia Cun. His protest was also meant to bring attention to the absence of protection of Chinese artists.

Why Liu inserts himself into public spaces

In his “Hiding in the City” series, Bolin uses his body and paints himself into a variety of settings in Beijing and beyond. Through using his body and inserting himself into art and by placing public spaces into his scenes, he creates a space for Chinese artists fighting the precarity that their status often held in China.

Bolin questions what the meaning of human beings is in modern society, in which, industry, the environment, society, and individuals themselves are constantly changing. He challenges the ideas of people and place, which is why many of the spaces he chose to be painted include landmarks, construction zones, gardens, retail, and public art spaces.

Anaylsis

Bolin’s work draws attention to the various social problems that come with China’s fast-growing economic development. Bolin paints himself into the background of various man-made structures, using products and slogans as a satirical and highly political statement within his works as a focus throughout the background. While he is absorbed into the background and all but ceases to exist, Bolin is questioning the environment in which he lives. Each background that he has selected has specific and profound meaning.

Conclusion

As evident in his use of colors and pop art theme, Bolin’s style is inspired by Picasso and Andy Warhol. In order to create his scenes, Bolin has a team of assistants who spend several hours camouflaging him with paint to help him become one with the chosen background. Not only does he use imagery that is recognizable in modern society, but he also uses himself within these scenes as a political statement directed at today’s society and the place people hold within it. Bolin combines vibrancy and politics in a way that is not only visually pleasing but also effective at engaging the audience with the backgrounds that have been carefully selected, thus communicating a silent message to the audience.

Photos

2000s

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 3 – Suo Jia Village
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 3 – Suo Jia Village

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 4 - Chinese Contemporary, 160x105cm
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 4 – Chinese Contemporary, 160x105cm

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 15 - Beijing New Art Project, 2006
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 15 – Beijing New Art Project, 2006

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 16 - People's Policeman, 2006
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 16 – People's Policeman, 2006

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 17 - People's Policeman, 2006
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 17 – People's Policeman, 2006

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 18 – Laid Off
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 18 – Laid Off

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 19 - Sculptures on the Left of Chairman Mao, 2006
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 19 – Sculptures on the Left of Chairman Mao, 2006

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 31 – Holding Lawful Democratic Elections
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 31 – Holding Lawful Democratic Elections

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 51 – Road block, 2007
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 51 – Road block, 2007

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 53 - Ancient Watercourse, 2007
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 53 – Ancient Watercourse, 2007

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 57 – Arles
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 57 – Arles

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 58 - Olympic Emblem, 2007, 150x118cm
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 58 – Olympic Emblem, 2007, 150x118cm

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 65 - Telephone Booth, 2008, 118x150cm
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 65 – Telephone Booth, 2008, 118x150cm

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 69 - Graffiti, 2008, 120x95cm
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 69 – Graffiti, 2008, 120x95cm

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 71 - Bulldozer
Liu Bolin

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 75 - Provisional Wall, 150x118cm
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 75 – Provisional Wall, 150x118cm

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 76 – Demolition
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 76 – Demolition

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 83 - Supermarket I, 2009
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 83 – Supermarket I, 2009

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 84 - Graffiti II, 2009
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 84 – Graffiti II, 2009

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 85 - Monastery, 2009
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 85 – Monastery, 2009

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 86 - Birds Nest, 2009
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 86 – Birds Nest, 2009

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 89 - Pile of Bricks, 2009
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 89 – Pile of Bricks, 2009

2010-

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 88 - Sawmill, 2010
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 88 – Sawmill, 2010

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 90 – National Day, 2010
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 90 – National Day, 2010

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 91 - Great Wall, 2010, 100x150cm
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 91 – Great Wall, 2010, 100x150cm

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 92 - Temple of Heaven, 2010
Liu Bolin – Hiding in the City No. 92 – Temple of Heaven, 2010

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 93 - Supermarket No.2, 2010, 118 x 150cm
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 93 – Supermarket No.2, 2010, 118 x 150cm

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 94 - Greenbelt, 2010
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 94 – Greenbelt, 2010

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 95 - Coal Pile, 2010
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 95 – Coal Pile, 2010

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 96 - Supermarket 3, 2011, 118x150cm
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 96 – Supermarket 3, 2011, 118x150cm

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 98 – Info Port, 2011
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 98 – Info Port, 2011

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 99 – Panda, 2012, 120 x 160cm
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 99 – Panda, 2012, 120 x 160cm

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 102 - Green Food, 2012
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 102 – Green Food, 2012

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 104 - Mobile Phone, 2012
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 104 – Mobile Phone, 2012

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 106 - Sleeping Lion, 2012
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 106 – Sleeping Lion, 2012

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 107 - Family Photo, 2012  Photograph
Liu Bolin

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 109 - Info Wall, 2013
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 109 – Info Wall, 2013

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 111 - Push Dozer, 2013
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 111 – Push Dozer, 2013

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 112 - Eating House, 2013
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 112 – Eating House, 2013

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 113 - Sunflower #1, 2013
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 113 – Sunflower #1, 2013

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 114 - Balloon #1, 2013
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 114 – Balloon #1, 2013

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 115 - Red Door, 2013
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 115 – Red Door, 2013

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 117 - Graffiti in Beijing #1, 2012
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 117 – Graffiti in Beijing #1, 2012

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 119 - Kitchen Knives
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 119 – Kitchen Knives

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 121 - Swiss Magazine Rack
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 121 – Swiss Magazine Rack

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 122 - United Nations, 2013
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 122 – United Nations, 2013

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 123 - Pollock - Scent, 2013, 120x200cm
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 123 – Pollock – Scent, 2013, 120x200cm

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City No. 126 - Cancer Village, 2013, 100x300cm
Liu BolinHiding in the City No. 126 – Cancer Village, 2013, 100x300cm

All images by Liu Bolin/liubolinstudio.com unless otherwise noted.

Videos

Liu Bolin speaks about his works

6min

Video: Liu Bolin & JR at the Louvre (behind the scenes)

5min

Video: Liu Bolin’s TED talk. Subtitles available

7min 46sec

Related works

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