Ever wanted an oil painting of your dog? Or one of Dumbledore? Or some traditional calligraphy written by a master? How about a hand painted Vermeer? You can get all of that, and much, much more at the Da Fen Oil Painting Village in Shenzhen, China.
Covering several blocks in a pedestrian only area, the Da Fen Oil Painting Village lives up to its name. Filled with tiny shops of artists, sellers, and frame makers you can find any style painting you can imagine: modern, impressionist, photo realism. Basically any style from any century. And if a painting is at all famous you’ll find plenty of copies of it all over.
The tree-lined streets are filled with tiny little shops with floor to ceiling paintings. In most you can actually see a painter at work. Down one little alley I saw a maser calligraphist at work, while next to him a guy was stapling a freshly painted copy of Picasso’s Sunflowers into a frame. Most also do commissions, and you can bring a picture of anything and they will replicate it for you.
The Da Fen Oil Painting Village has a funny history. It started in the 90’s when one businessman and 20 specially trained artists moved to the area and started doing replicas of famous paintings. They were so successful that the village grew and grew and now boasts 5,000 painters! (That allegedly sell 5 million pieces of art a year!) But according to this BBC article even the fake art word isn’t immune to the global recession and they’ve had some hard times recently.
I didn’t feel a lack of customers though. On a sunny saturday the place was bustling with families, couples and I assume businessmen haggling, bargaining and buying art. The village has a main cobbled street with some coffee shops in it (art cafe’s ‘natch) and Color and I sat down for a cup of tea after all the walking. There is also a bust of the town’s patron saint: DaVinci.
The whole place is actually more interesting than a museum, because unlike a museum, which is broken up into different time periods and styles, you can see Girl with the Pearl Earring next to a portrait of the Queen, next to a naughty nude, next to a Thomas Kinkade. It was quite funny. But it’s better to see for yourself. Here are some more pictures of the Da Fen Oil Painting Village!
I’ll be honest, Shenzhen is not the most interesting of Chinese cities. Located right next to Hong Kong it’s main purpose is an easy-access shopping mecca. But there are some unique little enclaves in the city and if you ever go, make sure to check out the Da Fen Oil Painting Village.