Dafen 大芬 Art Village: Mass Art for the Masses

Dreamt of owning Starry Night but too timid to pull off a heist at the Van Gogh Museum? Then Shenzhen, China’s Dafen Art Village is your (relatively) lawful solution. In this odd corner of the world, one can purchase a hand painted reproduction of anything for roughly 100 to 500 Chinese RMB (15 to 80 USD) depending on the size and quality desired.

Twenty or so reproduction artists set up camp in Dafen in the early 1990s and since then many thousand have settled here to paint in the village’s copy workshops.

A sprinkling of real artists creating original art work have also taken up residence. One easy way to determine whether a particular shop specializes in copies or real art is simply to point at something you fancy and ask, “Do you have this smaller?” If they pull out a stack of duplicates in a range of sizes, you can peg the quality and price accordingly.

If you want your own portrait of Vladimir Putin (points for spotting him below), you can reach Dafen by taxi from Shenzhen’s Lo Wu Station in fifteen minutes for roughly 50 RMB. Show the taxi driver this: 大芬.

If your walls are already saturated with works by Thomas Kincaid, “Painter of Light,” then simply enjoy the mini-photo tour:

Typical shop in Dafen Art Village

Typical shop in Dafen Art Village

How many copies of this horse painting will he knock out today?

How many copies of this horse painting will he knock out today?

"Hotel Art Work"

The next time you’re staring at the walls of a Motel 6 in Tulsa, think fondly of the Dafen artists.

Elk, horse and Deng Xiao Ping in Dafen Art Village

Would you like to signal your love of The Party at the same time you hint at your love of capitalist market-reform and smoking? Then this portrait of Deng Xiao Ping might be the one for your office!

Statuary in Dafen

Statuary can also be commissioned

Hanging out in Dafen with my good friend naked, red Bruce Lee

Hanging out in Dafen with my good friend naked, red Bruce Lee

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30 responses to “Dafen 大芬 Art Village: Mass Art for the Masses

  1. Oh, now it’s personal!

    While working with an Australian businessman in the printing industry (in Shenzhen), I visited Dafen quite a lot. The metro wasn’t completed at that time, so it was a real slog getting there from just about anywhere.

    Anyway, numerous fumes were inhaled while negotiating deals for canvas pads and “Fepson”-type large-format printers. That the ceiling was low and the fumes perpetual made it feel like my boss and I had just landed in Beijing each time we paid our contact a visit.

    But what a place, hey? They probably supply every 2-star hotel and 富二代 with paintings of wispy trees and even wispier imaginations.

    • Glad to supply a pleasant-ish (?) stroll down memory lane. Only buying two animal painting for my kids, I’m sure I only scratched the surface of the place.

      • Jen,

        I will be in Hong Kong roughly from 7 July – 9 July.

        If you have time (you’re probably really busy packing though…if you haven’t already made it to Utrecht), would you like to meet?

        I will probably be staying in TST.

        Thanks,
        Jonathan

    • Ha! I only purchased things for my kids’ bedrooms (basically an abstract picture of a lion and a colorful picture of a zebra). You could find some interesting things, but there is a lot of tat and it all started to bleed together in my vision! That said, some of the shops were clearly head and shoulders above the rest in terms of quality (and priced accordingly; in the end it seems you always get what you pay for…).

  2. Pingback: China’s copy culture impact and origins | logatfer's travelog·

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