Want a faux Van Gogh or pseudo Picasso in China’s Shenzhen?
Thirty years ago, no one had heard of Shenzhen – a small rural community. Shenzhen’s modern cityscape of today developed after the Chinese government opened it up to foreign investment through designation as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Even as Shenzhen has become better known, it is mostly known as the place that iPhones are manufactured in FoxConn’s controversial factories or for its malls full of knockoff Ray-Ban sunglasses and Louis Vuitton handbags.
However, as Shenzhen continues to expand and attract young Chinese citizens looking for good employment, it is developing a more vibrant city life and new attractions. Shenzhen is just over the border from Hong Kong with a checkpoint accessible from the Hong Kong metro system thus making it an easy day trip.
The Dafen Oil Painting Village is one of the most fascinating things Shenzhen has to offer and and is no doubt something extremely and uniquely Chinese that cannot be found elsewhere. The village is home to countless artists and galleries where a wide selection of imitation oil paintings are produced. It is the place to go to pick up a fake Mona Lisa or Starry Night.
The village is unassuming as the entrance is around the side of a dingy Walmart, but once in the narrow streets, it is effortless to become immersed in the narrow European-style passages for hours. Many artists paint outside and it is amazing to watch as high quality, full-size replicas are created based on tiny print outs showing the original paintings. As the paintings are hand-painted, they vary from gallery to gallery slightly in terms of the quality or minor differentiations in coloring. Take the time to find a piece that you want, at the price that you have in mind – this is definitely a time to utilize bargaining skills.
After a few hours and countless conversations in broken Chinese and English with gallery owners and artists, I settled on an Andy Warhol Painting of Mao Zedong. I felt that this piece was a good way to remember my experience in China. Although it is a copy, to me, it’s something unique.