Beijing-based artist Liu Bolin silently comments on modern sociopolitical conditions by disappearing into his art.

Why you should listen

Artist Liu Bolin began his "Hiding in the City" series in 2005, after Chinese police destroyed Suo Jia Cun, the Beijing artists' village in which he'd been working, because the government did not want artists working and living together. With the help of assistants, he painstakingly painted his clothes, face, and hair to blend into the background of a demolished studio.

Since then, the so-called "Invisible Man" has photographed himself fading into a variety of backgrounds all over Beijing. Spot him embedded in a Cultural Revolution slogan painted on a wall, or spy him within tiers of supermarket shelves stocked with soft drinks. Just as with Bolin himself, the contradictions and confusing narratives of China's post-Cultural Revolution society are often hiding in plain sight.

What others say

“Bolin's work is part of a growing movement of conceptual art from China, much of which reflects social and economic change.” — The Independent, 1/31/11

Liu Bolin’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Liu Bolin

Global Issues

Look closer at this collage of flags. You may just find a familiar face

September 2, 2015

You might know artist Liu Bolin by his outline. He paints himself to disappear into backgrounds, becoming a ghost-like presence in his images. (Watch his TED Talk, “The invisible man.”) It’s a trick of the eye designed to make a point. In his latest piece, “The Future,” he aims to raise awareness about the United Nations’ Global Goals. The Global […]

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Arts + Design

The artist is present. Can you see him?

July 1, 2014

Beijing-based artist Liu Bolin disappears into his works, silently making bold statements about consumerism, mass culture -- even the Chinese government. See a gallery of previously unpublished works.

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JR and Liu Bolin join forces to make the TED dream team

June 26, 2013

The image above is classic Liu Bolin — the artist painted exactingly to blend in with the scene behind him. (Watch his talk from TED2013, “The invisible man.”) But if you look closely, you will see that the man in the picture is not actually Bolin—the tell-tale Ray-Bans reveal that this is JR, the artist […]

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