Just before leaving Hong Kong I was invited to join an artist friend to revisit the surreal Dafen Artist Oil Painting Village in Shenzhen. It’s the place where you can get any painting faked for pennies. The artist friend was commissioned to do a large scale piece and the idea agreed upon with the customer was that my friend would do the sketch in a small print and then these copy artists would replicate the work onto a very large canvas. This is definitely a place where it would be advisable to know fluent Mandarin, as most of them do not come from Canton province and definitely do not know any English. But, with some lousy Mandarin and sign language we were able to bid a few against each other and get a price offer of about 300yuan. Mind you, we’re talking some major work investment and all materials included. Unbelievable. Ofcourse, if you’d ask them to they’ll do that with any other painting of your choice, so if you fancy your own oil painted Mona Lisa for dirt cheap, then they’ll be happy to accommodate. But, it seems that for this region of the world people typically go more for Mao portraits and running horses than they do for famous western art.
Walking around this village and looking at the artists doing their thing, it sometimes becomes a bit difficult to tell where the artists end and where their fakes begin. After a while, it all meshes into a blur of colors and cliché art.
If not for the art, then for the artistic atmosphere, there are a few lovely coffee joints there with some pretty funky people…
If you’re looking for a surreal experience of copycat China in Shenzhen, this is the spot for you.