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Artist Liu Bolin (劉勃麟) disappears in China

Although the past decade a few artists in China have received attention in the West, the majority of artists inside China toil in isolation, receiving little financial support, and, sadly, even less respect, from their homeland.

Liu Bolin (劉勃麟), a 36 year old Chinese artist, challenges the status of artists in China through his “Hidden In The City” series.  In this work he paints himself according to the background and blends into the environment as if he has disappeared.  It takes Liu as long as 10 hours to prepare for each piece in his series. His “disappearing act” is so good that frequently passerbys don’t even notice he is there.

Liu first became acutely aware of his marginalized status when he graduated from the Shandong School of the Arts and was not able to find a job. There seemed to be no place for him in society.  He recalls:
I experienced the dark side of the city. I seemed to have no part in the society. No one cared about me. I felt that the society did not need me. From that time, my attitude turned from dependence to resistance.

In 2005 when the government demolished Liu’s studio in Beijing, he became inspired to realize a new art form – disappearing. Liu said:

Chinese artists are in a very difficult situation. I want to use a series of photos titled “Hidden in the City” as a silent demonstration, to point out the adverse situation artists are living in, and the poor attitude the society has towards arts.

Life in China is booming for many of its peoples but artists are one group that remain marginalized.  Liu addresses this issue by invoking irony to remind people to pay attention to the “Hidden in the City.

*The translation of the original article from Chinese was done by Patrick Lau in Singapore.

*Photos courtesy of and

Click here for a few books on contemporary art in China: New China, New Art, by Richard Vine, and The Revolution Continues: New Art From China by the Saatchi Gallery.

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