Li Hongbo

China 1974


Li Hongbo
Li Hongbo
September 7, 2013
Art somehow explains a lot that's happening in the world right now. Feel free to contact me at

Has paper become obsolete in contemporary digital age? In a time when even books get increasingly published digitally, what is paper’s role exactly? Li Hongbo, a Chinese artist, uses this medium in order to express his thoughts, feelings, and ultimately, his view of the world. Exploring the endless possibilities of the paper, the artist plays a game of perception, creating a visual language that, in a changing world, has stood the test of time. More than anything, his work surprises. Appearing as traditional sculptures, there is another universe within them – a universe that is unusual and captivating.

Li contact news about sheets, video and videos about work from 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016, exhibited in the like museum in news york
Li Hongbo – Rainbow, 2015 – image courtesy of Klein Sun Gallery

Biography and Artistic References

Born in Jilin, China, in 1974, the sculptor studied at Jilin Normal University, receiving his Bachelor of Arts from the Fine Art Department in 1996. Five years later, he obtained his Master of Fine Art from Folk Art Department of Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, and in 2010, he extended his knowledge by obtaining a Master in Fine Art from Experimental Art Department of the same institution. His interest in paper was born while he worked as a book publisher. When it came to the design of every individual book, he had to consider paper. What type of paper suited which book, he needed to understand the characteristics of the material, its style, and durability. Working as an editor has allowed him to increase his knowledge of subjects outside of the field of art, and it also helped in supporting his family life. His dream of working in art has proven to be unwavering from start to finish. At the very beginning of his career, the artist discovered the flexible nature of paper through Chinese paper toys and lanterns. He used the “paper gourd” technique, which has existed in China for a long time, to make a gun. Solid in form and usually attached to killing, and yet, the sculptor turned it into a tool intended for play, or possibly decoration. This way, it lost both the form of a gun and the culture inherent to such a weapon. It was stripped of its original purpose and given a new life. It became a game.[1] Sculptures that he makes are often shaped as human figures, objects or bust replicas from ancient Greece or Renaissance Italy.

His previous experiences with paper allowed the artist to adapt more easily to the process of making art

Li like the york museum video, showing work from 2012 and 2014
Li Hongbo – Young Roman, 2013 – image courtesy of Magda Danysz Gallery

Li Hongbo – Reinventing Paper

In this increasingly digital world, our lives are becoming paper-free. However, there is a tendency by a number of artists to revive their interest in the medium and celebrate the slowly dying material. The sculptor doesn’t consider the material he works with as very important. It is just one of many things he utilizes to present his personal viewpoints. That being said, it should also be acknowledged that he’s doing some amazing things with paper. He challenges the viewer’s very perception of reality. By making that reality change into something else, he’s changing the entire artwork, but also the way that people see and think. What seems as a hard and rigid object, after being opened or provoked, becomes a manifestation of change. His sculptures can move, stretch, spread, twist, bend, contract – and what makes them truly unique, they can return to their original shape. As for the process of making the sculptures, the artist uses the paper gourd technique, where he layers “sheet of paper one by one attaching each with glue at specific points to create a honeycomb pattern. Each sheet is glued individually by hand until I’ve created a small block.”[2] At first, he uses a woodworking saw to create initial cuts, discarding excess paper and reducing the area of the block into the form he’s striving for. As soon as the saw becomes too impractical for cutting, he switches to angle grinder, which allows the artist to achieve greater detail. The finishing touches on the sculpture are applied with sandpaper. Everything is under consideration – depth, width, mass, and center.

The design and the choice of tools and materials may seem simple, but the artworks are indeed colossal in their ingenuity

Li Hongbo
Li Hongbo – Absorption No. 1, 2015 (Left) / Absorption No. 6, 2015 (Right) – image courtesy of Klein Sun Gallery

A Colossal Contribution

Special attention is given to the center of each sculpture. Because the pieces are flexible, the center must be exact. If the center is off, they would simply tip off. It’s not unusual that a regular sculpture takes more than 20,000 of paper, carefully layered up. This colossal number is justified in that very moment when anyone of his sculptures becomes apparently flexible and breaks the chains of reality. Art is not about numbers, nor should it be. But, in this instance, the bigger is better. Hongbo is an extremely talented artist who has found a medium that allows him to explore its endless possibilities. And when talent and possibility meet, the world of contemporary art can only prosper.

He is represented by Magda Danysz Gallery.

Li Hongbo lives and works in Beijing.


  1. Șerbănescu C. Li Hongbo: There is a Chinese saying, life is as fragile as paper, which has left a deep impact on me, Inhale [September 7,2016]
  2. Butler A. Interview with paper sculptor Li Hongbo, Design Boom [September 7,2016]

Featured image: Portrait of the artist – photo credits Jason Lee/Reuters

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016TextbooksKlein Sun Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2016The Exhibition of Annual of Contemporary Art of China 2016Beijing Minsheng Art Museum, BeijingGroup
2016On Paper Supreme 2016National Exhibition Center 2H Museum, ShanghaiGroup
2016TRANS-DESIGN 2016 Shanghai Art & DesignWest Bund Art Center, ShanghaiGroup
2016Echo of Civilization Crossing DunhuangImperial Ancestral Temple Museum of Art, BeijingGroup
2016Dunhuang – Song of Living BeingsShanghai Himalayas Museum, ShanghaiGroup
2015Irons for the Ages, Flowers for the DaySCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GASolo
2015River FestivalAsian Civilizations Museum, SingaporeGroup
2015CODA Paper ArtCODA Museum, ApeldoornGroup
2015TA EraTimes Art Museum, BeijingGroup
2015Forever YoungAsia University Museum of Modern Art, TaichungGroup
2015Metaplasia – La China Ardente: Monumental Contemporary SculpturesAnciens Abattoirs, MonsGroup
2015Wiedergeburt der Unsterblichkeit – Zeitgenossische Kunt aus ChinaMuseum Angerlehner, Thalheim bei WelsGroup
2015FLOW_1: Italian and Chinese Contemporary Art in DialoguePalladian Basilica, VicenzaGroup
2015Artisan & Craftsmanship 4: Exhibition on Installation ArtYuan Art Museum, BeijingGroup
2014Li Hongbo: Tools of StudyKlein Sun Gallery, New YorkSolo
2014Shadow of KnivesContemporary by Angela Li, Sheung Wan, Hong KongSolo
2014Pulp Culture: Paper is the MediumMorris Museum, Morristown, New JerseyGroup
2014Once Upon a Time in Asia: The Story TreeACM Asian Civilisations Museum, SingaporeGroup
2014Over the Edge: Paperworks UnboundWilliamsburg Art & Historical Center, BrooklynGroup
2014Stacked & Folded paper as SculptureThe Dennos Museum, Traverse CityGroup
2014The 12th National Exhibition of Experimental ArtToday Art Museum, BeijingGroup
2014Experimental ArtCentral Academy of Fine Arts Museum, BeijingGroup
2014Re-Modernization: The 3rd Documentary Exhibition of Fine ArtsWuhan Art Museum, WuhanGroup
2014Chinese Pose: The 3rd China Sculpture ExhibitionShangdong Art Museum, ShangdongGroup
2013Li Hongbo – Out of PaperKunstverein Ludwigsburg, Ludwigsburg, GermanySolo
2013CODA Paper Art 2013Coda Museum, ApeldoornGroup
2013Paper WorksBerkshire Museum, PittsfieldGroup
2013Hot Pot: A Taste of Chinese Contemporary ArtBrattleboro Museum & Art CenterGroup
2013Transformation – A Perspective of Contemporary Art53 Art Museum, GuangzhouGroup
2013Freeze Frame Moments – 2013 Young Artist Invitational ExhibitionNan Art Museum, GuangzhouGroup
2013Insightful CharismaShanghai Himalayas Museum, ShanghaiGroup
2013Tan Wei Guan ZhiWu Niu Visual and Packing Institute Visual Arts Museum, ChengduGroup
2013Art SanyaThe Forbidden City at Yalong Bay, HainanGroup
2013Shenzhen Chinese Ink Painting BiennialGuan Shanyue Art Museum, ShenzhenGroup
2013Datong 2nd International Sculpture BiennialHe Yang Museum, Datong, ShanxiGroup
2013Evolution – ImageryJingren Paperlogue & Artron, BeijingGroup
2012Pure White PaperDominik Mersch Gallery, SydneySolo
2012Li HongboA Tree Mizuma & One Gallery, TokyoSolo
2012SelfSchoeni Art Gallery, BeijingSolo
2012All Our Relations18th Biennale of SydneyGroup
2012Material - ObjectEli Klein Fine Art, New YorkGroup
2012Research Exhibition on Post-70’s Generation Artists Jianghan Star PlanWu Han Art Museum, Wu HanGroup
2012The Start of a Long Journey: The Collection of Excellent Graduate Works from The Central Academy of Fine Arts 2009 – 2011Art at Golden Square, LondonGroup
20121st Xinjiang BiennaleXinjiang International Exposition Centre, Urumqi, XinjiangGroup
2011The World – Li Hongbo New Works ExhibitionFound Museum, BeijingSolo
2011Start from the Horizon: Chinese Contemporary Sculpture Since 1978Sishang Art Museum, BeijingGroup
2011Material - ObjectEK Projects, BeijingGroup
2011Experimental ArtCentral Academy of Fine Arts Museum, BeijingGroup
2010The Big BangWhite Rabbit Collection, SydneyGroup
2010Journey of a Thousand MilesCentral Academy of Fine Arts Museum, BeijingGroup
2010Object EnergyFound Museum, BeijingGroup
2010Tien Kung Kai WuDeshan Art Space, BeijingGroup
2010I’m on the Road to…Mizuma & One Gallery, BeijingGroup
2007The Desire for Material Welfare & No WantsJin Du Art Center, BeijingGroup
2007Shared Time and SpaceK Space, BeijingGroup