Liu Bolin: Making the Invisible Seen

The ARtist in a sea of red

copyright Liu Bolin

I experienced the dark side of society, without social relations, and had a feeling that no one cared about me, I felt myself unnecessary in this world…

So said Liu Bolin, China’s “Invisible Artist”, who hails from the province of Shandong.

Chameleon man!

Famous for his photographic series entitled “Hiding in the City” which began in 2005, Bolin’s talent has caught the world’s attention by showing through his powerful photographs how he effortlessly melds with any given background.

Liu Bolin blending in with phones

Bolin’s craft shows not only artistic promise but dedication to his craft. He relates that it takes him at least 3 hours or if very complex, 3 days to complete one picture. He spends 10 hours covered in paint just to ensure that the edges of his physique become an undistinguished part of his background like his “Supermarket” shot or that one where he merges with a hundred phones. He has learned to be patient as he becomes a messenger of truths that are conveyed in his work.

But his pictures are more than just another version of “Where’s Wally?” Each installation that Bolin and his artist friends make sends a strong statement of how humans become figuratively invisible at the face of circumstance, nature and history.  Stemming from a strong feeling of being disassociated with his surroundings and fellowmen gave him an angle by which he saw that we often become victims of our social, historical, and political realities – an event he himself experienced as an artist starting out in the world, “’At that time, contemporary art was in quick development in Beijing, but the government decided it did not want artists like us to gather and live together.Also many exhibitions were forced to close.The situation for artists in China is very difficult and the forced removal of the artist’s studio is in fact my direct inspiration of this series of photographs…”

 Liu further explains that his work holds a quiet but unyielding spirit which pushes the viewer to relate the scenario with their lives, thereby opening their eyes to the real problems of life. It is about becoming nothing while challenging those that look at his photos to understand the magnitude of how the city’s evolution and development affects all.

Bolin’s work has been very successful and monumental that another installation called “Hiding in New York” was done in 2011, showcasing this time popular places in the big apple. He has also been invited to speak about his movement in TED last February 2013.

Here are more behind the scenes videos:

More pictures and his official website can be viewed at

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