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.