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There was a time not long ago when the Chinese village of Dafen became infamous for cornering the market on oil painting reproductions. Formerly home to some 300 rice growers, Reuters reports the Shenzhen suburb of southern China hosts approximately 8,000 painters and 1,200 galleries devoted to creating imperceptible reproductions of European masters like Van Gogh and Leonardo Da Vinci. Lined with tens of thousands of these canvases drying on clotheslines, the town became the focus of the 2016 documentary China’s Van Goghs, which profiled Zhao Xiaoyong, one of the many artists in the painting district responsible for creating reproductions sold at tourist shops, galleries, and museums.
What was once pejoratively described as something akin to a citadel of copycats is now trying to rebrand itself as an incubator of original art, thanks to a 100 million yuan (~$14.5 million) investment from the local Chinese government that will go toward an art museum and 268 apartments for painters.
But why should China invest millions in a village that produced 4.15 billion yuan (~$601 million) worth of paintings in 2017? Because even that large number pales in comparison to Dafen’s heyday when it was reportedly responsible for 75% of the world’s oil painting reproductions.
Indeed, the village has seen its fortunes diminish in the past decade. According to Reuters, artists attribute the slump to the 2008 financial crisis, which quashed foreign demand for reproductions. Additionally, the shift in tastes toward midcentury modern décor with minimalist aesthetics has likely contributed to the general decline of oil painting sales.
Currently, there are only 300 artists living in Dafen who focus on original works, and at least one is highly skeptical that any rebranding push will be effective. Artist Chen Jingyang has worked in Dafen for 12 years. He tells Reuters that “the big buyers know that the market here used to be famous for copies, and it was a low-end market, so not many are coming for the original paintings.”
Yesterday, December 18, marks the 40th anniversary of China’s Open Door Policy, which Deng Xiaoping used to spur foreign investment and industrialization in the country after decades of Mao Zedong’s closed system of community economic development. In 1980, Deng established China’s first Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in the Guangdong and Fujian provinces to attract substantial capital with favorable tax regimes and substantially low wages.
Shenzhen was the first and most effective SEZ, sporting an extremely high growth rate of 40% per annum for a 12 year period between 1981 and 1993 — a rate that was more than 30% higher than the national average at the time.
If the speedy expansion in industrial production helped boost China’s economy, it also marshaled strange social praxis and community engineering centered around the economics of comparative advantage. Like Dafen, there are many other Chinese cities that have longstanding niche specialties. For example, there’s a town five hours south of Shanghai called Qiaotou that manufactures more than 60% of all the world’s buttons.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
In 1850, when Dr. Robert W. Gibbes commissioned J. T. Zealy to make daguerreotypes of persons held in slavery in and around Columbia, South Carolina, for Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz to use in support of his theory that African people were a separate species, daguerreotypes were at the height of fashion.
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.