ALL CLEAR: The Chinese performance artist and photographer Liu Bolin is the art world’s version of “The Invisible Man,” but he won’t be so hard to see in the months ahead.
Annie Leibovitz’s semitransparent shots of him in Moncler’s spring ads are just the start of a hectic work schedule. In April, Bolin will have solo exhibitions at the Gallery Magda Danysz in Shanghai, and at the Galerie Paris-Beijing in Paris. There will also be a performance at Centre Georges Pompidou and another at Festival Portrait(s) in Vichy, France later this year. Bolin will have his first major solo exhibition at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris starting September 4 and running through October 29.
Before those get under way, the artist will speak May 11 at the “Art of Tomorrow” conference at the W Doha Hotel & Residences in Qatar. The upcoming blitz is a switch for the artist whose “Hiding in the City” series features self portraits in which he camouflages himself by painting himself to blend into his landscapes. “It’s my way to convey all the anxiety I feel for human beings,” the artist has said of the practice.
Along with brands like Guerlain, Fred, Renault and Ford, Bolin said his first fashion-related project was to hide five well-known designers — Jean Paul Gaultier, Alber Elbaz, Angela Missoni and Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli — in work they were proud of for Harper’s Bazaar. “Working with them was a truly inspiring process where everybody learned from one another,” he said.
He had no qualms about the commercial aspects of capturing his own likeness, or at least traces of it, in the Moncler ads. “I’m a professional artist, and that means I would be open to a variety of ways to express my logic in art and thoughts about culture. I’m quite happy about that,” said Liu who is represented in New York by the Klein Sun Gallery.
Intrigued by the “kind of confusion brought about by online and virtual realities, and equally fascinated by the new-media art,” Bolin declined to single out any favorites “largely because most of them are still beginning to explore a new realm.” From his viewpoint, Berlin, London, New York and Paris are driving the art world, especially Berlin, “which always reminds me of many things I do not know of or have not thought about.
“It is imperative that artists remain highly sensitive to the external world. The reason why we persist as artists, aside from our virtuosity, is because we tend to access the nature, or being, of things in themselves despite their appearances. This is one of our important duties,” he said.
At 44, he is not an I-knew-this-would-happen kind of dreamer. “Honestly, I didn’t think much about future when I was a little. What I normally do is really just taking care of stuff at present so that I wouldn’t suffer from regret later on,” he said. “My motto is, ‘Work as hard as you can, so you won’t live with regret in the future.’ I don’t plan for the future; I just focus on the present.”
Bolin isn’t partnering with any fashion labels at the moment, but “As an artist, I’m particularly attracted to anything unique, ranging from interior designs, architectural designs, industrial designs to, of course, fashion designs. Actually, I’ve designed some shoes myself but haven’t completely got into it. The future is unpredictable, so I will just be a silent follower right now,” he said.
But quietness is not what he is after. “As an artist, having creative skills is not enough, you must be sensitive to society and more importantly, you must be willing to shoulder the responsibility of rescuing the souls of humanity. As civilizations transition from the industrial age to the intellectual age, I believe that as an artist I should create the works I should create in order to contemplate our time. This is what I will do and must do next.”