The Painters of Dafen—Makeshift
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The Painters of Dafen

When videographer Seth Coleman pitched us on a topic we had read about but never seen – the craft of replicating paintings – we couldn’t say no.

On Air Global Treks

China, with its reputation for duplication, was the obvious place to turn for our Copycats issue.  When videographer Seth Coleman pitched us on a topic we had read about but never seen – the craft of replicating paintings – we couldn’t say no.

The village of Dafen lies just outside the metropolis of Shenzen. Seth caught up with painters like Du Leimeng, who have focused on artistic mimicry since a 1980s boom in demand for copies of Van Goghs, Monets and Picassos created a cottage industry.  Apprentices honed their replication skills for bosses that sold to international markets well into the 1990s.

As art fever ebbed, the trade fragmented. Many painters began to break off on their own, adapting their skillset to suit modern demand for family photos rendered on an oil canvas. Today, entrepreneurs like Du have gained their independence but struggle with their identity as artists.

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  • Elaine

    This is completely incredible. I love his mind, and the way he thinks of art compared to his peers who he mentions – they think he is already an artist. He, on the contrary, recognises creativity. I didn’t expect to be so moved by the story of a ‘copycat’. Beautiful, thanks.

  • Bernhard Üllenberg

    Very nice film about a topic, which is often be told just from our side. Thanks!

  • sawyerh

    China, with its reputation for duplication, was the obvious place to turn for our Copycats issue. When videographer Seth Coleman pitched us on a topic we had read about but never seen – the craft of replicating paintings – we couldn’t say no.

  • sawyerh

    Today, entrepreneurs like Du have gained their independence but struggle with their identity as artists.

    • sawyerh

      Good point.

  • became

    “first we must have financial stability…then we can become artists” the clip concludes….had that been the case, we never would have had art, let alone innovation.

    • sven

      How do you figure? Surely prehistoric cave-drawing humans ensured they had enough food before scratching on the walls, and in more modern times, artists have been supported and sponsored by wealthy and powerful religious institutions. How is one going to be creative if they’re worried about starving?

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