Liu Bolin is not only a performance artist, photographer and pioneer of his ‘Invisible Man’ painting treatment of camouflaging into the most complex of landscapes. He is also a father, husband, and sneaker aficionado—evident in the crisp white Riccardo Tisci x Nike Air Force 1’s he donned during our meeting in the Ruinart champagne lounge at Frieze New York.
Hiding in the Vineyards with the Ruinart Cellar Master, 2018.
Bolin is in town for the launch of his collaboration with Ruinart, the first established Champagne house. As Ruinart’s current Artist of the Year, Bolin developed a fascinating series of images highlighting the Champagne product process and heritage. They were captured during his 10-day residence at the historic grounds and vineyards of Maison Ruinart in Reims, France.
We sat down with Bolin to learn more about the Ruinart commission, his predictions for the art industry, and how digitalism is affecting present day modes of communication.
"This space caught my attention, because it is a passage. It leads down inside the earth, from the soil and vineyards to the cellars and production area. It's the connection between the crop and the production of champagne. I love transitional spaces. They are very informative. For the first, I changed my position by reaching out with my arms. It gives the image another dimension." Photo: ‘Deep Underground’ by Liu Bolin
You're well known as the ‘The Invisible Man’ on the global stage. What did it take for you to get there?
LIU BOLIN: I’ve taken advantage of both traditional and modern media platforms to present my work. In 2008, my sculptures and behavioral art debuted on network TV, and since the age of social media, I’ve used Facebook to amplify my artwork to the world.
What was the first artistic expression you put out into the world?
LB: Before venturing into photography, I created sculptures. Without the process of experimenting with sculpture, I would not have developed the thought process I’ve used to form my work today. It has all been a continuous process.
What does performance art mean to you, and how do you want to make the viewer feel?
LB: The process of transforming from visible to invisible is very interesting and can be read on many levels. I would like the viewer to relate this process to their own survival, their life status, and see that this is a reflection of their own life.
Hiding in Mucha Posters, 2018.
You're in town for the Frieze Art Fair. What do these art fairs mean to you and where do you believe the industry is heading?
LB: Art fairs, museums, and galleries are currently what we acknowledge as the common way to view art. As the internet age develops and as we begin owning more smart devices, there will be adjustments in the way we purchase, view and create art. Since our form of existence will be different, there will be more and more time spent online.
You’ve recently unveiled your collaboration with the historic champagne house, Ruinart, who holds a longstanding devotion to the art world. How did the history of Ruinart play into your collaboration?
LB: When you see a bottle of Ruinart, it's hard to imagine the many complex processes that are required to produce it. Ruinart was the first established ever champagne house, dating back to 1729. Its history and its values, which are almost three hundred years old, imbue the daily production process, which was a great source of my inspiration.
Throughout the years, Maison Ruinart will continue to develop their production modes and methods. My work captures their current essence—for instance, the workers spiritual connection to their work and to the land.
Throughout the creation of eight performance images, how did you go about revealing the identity of Maison Ruinart for this collaboration?
LB: The Ruinart team’s expertise, enthusiasm and passion for the product was very inspiring, so I decided to vanish behind those who craft the product—bringing the people of Maison Ruinart at the center of each creation. To be honest, I had no idea what my artwork with Ruinart would look like as they left it to me to create whatever inspired me. As soon as I met the team and explored the production process, I knew I had to include them. When I learned more about the Mucha poster, which was the first ever Champagne advertisement and an early showcase of Ruinart’s dedication to the arts, I felt it was important to include this in the series. It shows their sincere devotion and heritage.
Disgorgement Production Line with Workers, 2018.
What does the perfect day in New York look like to you?
LB: I enjoy visiting MoMA, The Guggenheim, The Whitney, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the galleries in Soho and Chelsea. After the museums and galleries, I head to the Baccarat Hotel to unwind with a glass of Ruinart Blanc de Blancs.
Where do you believe is the world's next emerging art market?
LB: The art world will always change in direction. The change will require an unprecedented event to occur, dependent on the future of artificial intelligence, the political culture and the strategic support of the arts within each country.
As for the world’s next emerging art markets—Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Shenzhen.
How will you continue to innovate and contribute to the art world in new ways?
LB: I’m interested in contributing to the non-physical, digital world of art and performance, and creating art that changes thoughts. We are in the age of building knowledge through data and artificial intelligence—this is where the future lies. If there is going to be a master, it will be someone in this realm.
Hiding in the Blanc de Blancs Crayère’, 2017.
How has the context of your artwork evolved throughout the years?
LB: Three years ago in early 2015, I performed a “Hacker Series.” I chose photos from the internet and edited them to put myself as invisible inside of those images before putting them back out into the internet.
This is an expression of the human power over the digital, non-physical world. This type of hacking often occurs in China, and for instance, in the case of Russia’s interference with the U.S. election. I do this to present questions about our era, and our desires in the world as it currently exists with the internet and social media.
Who are your artistic inspirations?
LB: Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys, and Francis Bacon.
What’s next for you?
LB: Two years ago, I presented a live broadcast through my cell phone about the contaminated fog condition in China. In the future, I’d like to perform another live broadcast through cell phones or cell phone software for something I believe is worthwhile—and continue questioning certain issues in humanity.
I will also continue my Hacker Series and let others know that such digital possibilities within art exists.
Any last bits of wisdom for up-and-coming artists?
LB: Trust in your natural, god given abilities.
Photography by: Photography by Liu Bolin