Liu Bolin (b. 1973, Shandong, China) is known in contemporary Chinese art circles as an ‘invisible man’ who body-paints himself into his urban surroundings. For his latest work, done in collaboration with the world’s oldest maison de champagne, Ruinart, Liu camouflaged not only himself but also the local staff working at Ruinart’s World Heritage chalk champagne cellars and vineyards, literally embodying the complex and unseen processes behind the famous brand’s history and savoir-faire, and hinting at both the grandeur of nature and the invisible demarcations between self and others.
As a student at the University of Shandong, he specialised in sculpture and then went on to teach drawing between 1995 and 2005. It was then that he came into contact with the Beijing East Village art scene where performance artists thrived. In 2005, he became aware of the housing evictions and the demolitions of traditional houses in the suburbs of Shanghai, to make way for a more modern capital city for the 2008 Olympic Games. Feeling powerless to help those affected by the destruction, he staged a silent protest which became the first photograph in the series entitled Hiding in the City. On this image, which is a combination of sculpture, painting and photography as much as performance, Liu Bolin literally vanishes in front of the houses that are slated for destruction, his body and clothes covered in garments that blend into the background. Liu Bolin, published by La Martinière. Until 2008, he was influenced by political and social issues, and included a series of works in front of walls displaying propaganda slogans from the Chinese Communist Party. From 2009, his images began portraying important criticisms of our consumer-focused society. More recently still, his attention has been focused on financial power, ecology, and the use of resources. “He composes images that initially attract, then surprise and worry, and end up remaining etched on his audience’s memories.” He has created a unique art form which has a rarely seen impact and is perfectly aligned with the world we are living in right now", explains Philippe Dagen. We are now seeing more and more new protagonists appear in his compositions, which brings a collective dimension that appeals directly to the viewer.