Even standing up close, Beijing-artist Li Hongbo’s sculpture of Michelangelo’s David looks like it is made out of marble or porcelain, but when it is gently pulled up, the bust stretches out beyond recognition, and when released, springs back to its original shape like a Slinky toy. The raw material that Li Hongbo uses for his sculptures is paper, thousands and thousands of sheets of paper. His average classical busts require gluing more than 5,000 sheets of paper together in a honeycomb pattern, using pressure to hold the sheets together. From there, he saws, cuts and shapes the huge block of glued paper to arrive at a rough sculpted form. Li Hongbo then shaves in the finer details and uses sandpaper to smooth the surface.
A book editor and publisher before his love of paper took a fascinating turn, Li Hongbo spent 12 years developing a technique to make sculptures out of paper. Some of his study took him back to the folding principles used in creating ancient Chinese paper toys and lanterns, but Li Hongbo’s innovations have gone far beyond that to a mind-boggling level of sophistication.
Now shown at select art galleries in the United States, Li Hongbo’s exquisite classical sculptures are selling for upwards of $60,000.