Bringing Back More Than A Colorful Memory from Dafen, Shenzhen’s Art Village

Much to do, see, and take home in the oil-painting hub of the world.

Beijing has the 798. New York City has Chelsea. But did you know Shenzhen also has a world-famous art destination? On Sunday, 15 September, international students from Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School (PKUSZ) visited Dafen Oil Painting Village in the northern Longgang District of Shenzhen.

Though Dafen doesn’t have the same prestigious reputation as other major art destinations, it plays an enormous role in bringing art to the world. More than 80% of the oil-paintings exported from China are produced in Dafen. It is home to over 1,000 art studios and 8,000 painters. Without a doubt, more oil-painting is done here than anywhere else in the world.

The global market for reproductions drives the massive output of paintings. Since its creation 30 years ago, Dafen has been a hub for copy artists who can recreate commercially-pleasing and beloved artworks from master’s of oil painting, with the clear favorite being Van Gogh.

Those who still think Dafen is a crowded space of dull studios or laborers mechanically reproducing and exporting for clients are mistaken. The market for original Chinese art has grown considerably in the last decade, and local artists have bloomed out of the reproduction trade. Established artists from outside of Shenzhen have set up studios to sell and exhibit their work there as well.

With its unique and cheap shopping, artsy cafes, and growing amount of original artwork, Dafen has become a top destination for Shenzhen residents and visitors alike.

During the trip to Dafen, international students explored the streets and alleys looking for the perfect little something to take home. Many also took advantage of the free admission at the Dafen Art Museum where there is a rotating selection of local art. There were even some who picked up a brush and took a seat in a studio to create something of their own. Just a few hours later, each one had a beautifully painted canvas to take home.

By Nathan Faber

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