60% of world's paintings come from one village in China

A single village in China is responsible for cranking out 60% of the world's paintings. The overwhelming majority of the paintings are slavish reproductions of famous paintings. The artists doing the work are very talented, however, and an organization called Regional asked some of the artists to paint themselves. The results are incredible.
Dafen is a village surrounded by the thriving metropolis of Shenzhen, and the origin of most of the world's reproduction oil paintings. In the popular imagination Dafen's artists produce anonymous works for unknown customers, operating no differently than a faceless factory churning out counterfeits, replicas and nothing close to what would be considered art.

Regional productively collaborated with the otherwise commoditized community in Dafen by asking selected individuals, some for the first time, to imagine themselves in their professional medium. The final works show the technical, creative, and professional facets of the artists identities subsumed by the styles and relationships they maintain with specific famous artists. The hybrid result of original subject with derivative style comments on originality, global cultural production and Regional's cooperation with emerging enterprise forms that are internationalizing the village.

Link (Thanks, Howard Rheingold!)


  1. My understanding is that the Chinese don’t believe in this mystical notion of “talent”. Perhaps that is true for many Asians, don’t know. I tend to agree with them. There is no such thing.

    It’ll be interesting to see what these artists produce when left on their own. Hopefully this is a start.

  2. 60% of the world’s painting“. Where on earth are you getting that from? It’s not in the linked article, and it’s frankly implausible.

    The article talks about “reproduction oil paintings”. 60% of the world’s reproduction oil paintings – that I could believe.

  3. My impression was that the traditional beliefs about success and luck associated with the Han Chinese were that fortune, fate and circumstance trumped hard work, learning and native talent. That is not say they found the latter three unimportant. Just not as important as the first three. Any comments?

  4. They’re definitely skilled and it’s a bummer that they make sofa art, because their self-portraits are compelling. As to talent, I’m going to define it as an aspect of dharma, one’s intrinsic nature. Some people have a natural affinity for certain types of processes and others have affinities for different ones, just as people are primarily visual, auditory or kinesthetic. A ‘talent’ for painting might include a primary visual orientation, good hand-eye coordination, greater ability to differentiate colors, etc. Like intellect, it would be a cluster of discreet, yet interrelated, abilities. How’s that?

  5. I would imagine talent to be: having proficiency in a certain combination of discrete human-physiological/psychological abilities, that when utilised within the terms of a discipline or pursuit, would give the person some advantage.

    For instance, I may have great pattern-recognition/spacial-awareness/timing-of-movement which may lead to being a talented animator. Or I may have an acute-mathematical-brain/dexterous-fingers/good-improvisation-skills and turn out to be a jazz musician..

    I don’t at all think there is such thing as a pianist or artist “talent”, but I definitely think, that each of our brains and bodies are differently configured in infinitely small – but significant- ways, so as all the discrete functions are weighted slightly differently, leading each of us to have propensities for abilities that require differing combinations of micro-abilities, leading to macro-talent.

  6. I would presume that not every reproduction-painter becomes as skilled as the ones featured in the article, and that the ones who have lasted the distance had some combination of micro-abilities to give them some sort of propensity toward painting.. eg. these are the talented ones (indeed, I’d venture most of the people working – because you don’t get paid if it isn’t any good- are the talented ones).

    Also, Antinous (curses!), you slipped in before me, ditto what you said.

  7. As a graphic designer, I’ve seen my “talent” flourish at certain times, particularly under times of stress (fear of failure) and also the chance to make some cash. Love it or hate it, I’ve performed much better at times when I’ve been motivated by a little green cash.

  8. These are great self-portraits. Style mimicry or not, you definitely get a sense of the artists’ own voice and sense of self.

    And, to be frank, while I know a lot of Western art students and artists, and admire many of them, there are bunches of them that don’t have anywhere near this level of technical proficiency and probably never will, even though they don’t work in this medium. Sigh.

  9. Cool, but totally unsurprising that the village of copyists turns out some real talent.

    Back on the Old Master days, a lot of the training was just straight copying. Still is – sometimes, you can learn a lot more straight from Van Eyck than you can from a two-bit art school teacher.

    In the old days, apprentices copied, sold their copies as copies (pre-photography, right?), and thus paid their way while they learned via their copying. Basically, this is the exact same thing going on.

  10. Dan O’Huiginn- It doesn’t say 60% of the world’s oil paintings in the article itself, but if you go to the main Regional page at http://www.regional-office.com/ there is a summary of the article that states: Sixty-percent of the world’s oil paintings are produced in Dafen, the majority of which are reproductions.

  11. Martypants has a good point. Creativity, perhaps even ‘talent’ are sublimations of survival instincts. Driving a car is a highly technical skill, but the societal pressures to learn that skill and the fact that a mistake may cost you your life make for incentives to master it. Being an artist and art instructor, I impress upon my students the traditional skills of painting and drawing are actually not much more technically difficult than driving, but the incentives for the latter are far more influential than for the former.

  12. I don’t know about “talent”, but I sure need my creative pattern recognition to see the orange and black stripes amid the brown and yellow of the grass.

  13. RACERX IS ALIVE: I can’t speak for Dan O’Huiginn, but when I read “sixty percent,” of anything,and don’t see some huge train of citation, I think “BS.”

    Sixty percent of the world’s oil paintings are produced in Dafen? Really? Ninety-nine percent of me remains unconvinced. I guess I should go look at the “summary.”

  14. “Research,” as a concept, is repeatedly mentioned in the link; yet none is cited.

    /Love the paintings, though.

  15. It would be quite soul destroying to have to paint repeated copies of the same masterpiece in a production line. It’s a shame they can’t just paint what they are inspired to paint.

  16. The idea that 60% of the world’s reproduction paintings come from a single village in China doesn’t sound so farfetched to me, considering what Peter Hessler found in southern Zhejiang Province in his recent National Geo story:
    “At Qiaotou, I stopped to admire the 20-foot-high silver statue of a button with wings that had been erected by the town elders. Qiaotou’s population is only 64,000, but 380 local factories produce more than 70 percent of the buttons for clothes made in China. In Wuyi, I asked some bystanders what the local product was. A man reached into his pocket and pulled out three playing cards—queens, all of them. The city manufactures more than one billion decks a year. Datang township makes one-third of the world’s socks. Songxia produces 350 million umbrellas every year. Table tennis paddles come from Shangguan; Fenshui turns out pens; Xiaxie does jungle gyms. Forty percent of the world’s neckties are made in Shengzhou.”

  17. A few weeks back, BBC World Service did an excellent radio documentary on Dafen, interviewing artists, going over their production techniques, and touring the “factories” with one of the Western owners. Unfortunately, their podcasts are only available for a limited time. Would be great if someone can turn up a link to it…

  18. I don’t buy the numbers on this one, but I can vouch for the skill of these artists. I haven’t been to China, but their reproduction oil painting peers in Thailand are frighteningly talented artists – usually much more adept at their craft than the MFAs that are being cranked out in American art departments.

  19. I’m going with #16’s comparison of learning to paint being similar to learning to drive a car.

    These craftsmen are the bus drivers of the painting world. They take you to the race track, you might give them a $1.25 to get there, but the big bucks go to the talented professionals in the race.

    Not everybody likes NASCAR, but most people have either seen or ridden on a bus.

  20. I couldn’t find a podcast, but here’s a very short video about dafan, showing the dearth of available stuff..


  21. Talent is when you have something not very much in common with most artists. Its a knack for being creative instead of just another person from the talent pool.

  22. I’ve been there. It’s a typically chinese place. Mass production wherein kids learn the foundation techniques and implement them with ample skill cheaply. –and then… sometimes among the multitudes something curious and new.

    It’s nothing different from the range of talent found anywhere else in the world, such as at an American summer art market. Most work is average and boring, but some personalities just can’t help but be more inventive and compelling. In Shenzen it’s just on a really huge scale.

  23. They may create a great volume of paintings but no one paints faster than Bob. Check out the Happy Accidents exhibition “30 Days, 30 Minutes, 30 Paintings”.

  24. Noen, I agree with you on the subject of “talent”. Below is a quote from a review of an excellent book, “Ten Thousand Things: Module and Mass Production in Chinese Art”, by Lothar Ledderose:

    “Chinese workers in the third century b.c. created seven thousand life-sized terracotta soldiers to guard the tomb of the First Emperor. In the eleventh century a.d., Chinese builders constructed a pagoda from as many as thirty thousand separately carved wooden pieces. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, China exported more than a hundred million pieces of porcelain to the West. As these examples show, the Chinese throughout history have produced works of art in astonishing quantities–and have done so without sacrificing quality, affordability, or speed of manufacture. How have they managed this? Lothar Ledderose takes us on a remarkable tour of Chinese art and culture to explain how artists used complex systems of mass production to assemble extraordinary objects from standardized parts or modules. As he reveals, these systems have deep roots in Chinese thought–in the idea that the universe consists of ten thousand categories of things, for example–and reflect characteristically Chinese modes of social organization.

    Ledderose explains that Chinese artists, unlike their Western counterparts, did not seek to reproduce individual objects of nature faithfully, but sought instead to mimic nature’s ability to produce limitless numbers of objects.”

  25. “Leonardo didn’t have a photograph to work from.”

    He had a mirror, didn’t he?

    “Their paintings look like the things they look like.”

    Yeah, just like Rembrandt and van Eyck.

  26. Some people use the word “talented” loosely. Using it to pretty much say you’re “good at what you do.”
    There is a difference between born talent and learned talent.

    May people have said that I’m talented it what I do. This would be “learned talent” through time and experience.

    To see my talent… google Nix Creations


  27. #37

    But does that support a notion that there is no such thing as talent?
    I don’t think so, it just outlines a different way of doing things.

  28. talent exists. It can be developed, or let rot. It can never be purchased. Technique can be purchased.
    If talent in a single thing is judged on a continuum of accomplishment, some could be said masters and others so negligible so as to not even register.

  29. I do agree the headline needs to be clarified: even if true and substantiated, there’s a BIG difference between “60% of world’s paintings” and “60% of world’s *reproduction* paintings” — as prolific as these talented chaps may be!

  30. #41 spot on Tak, otherwise there’d be no masters (at anything) in China and everyone would be great at everything.

  31. I don’t see talent as most people do.
    I feel that all your skills come from your experiences in life
    whatever muscles you use most for the first part of your life are the ones that you will feel most comfortable to use later on
    that includes parts of the brain
    so basically all talent is “learned” talent because no one was born with more than anyone else, though some were born with less, everyone started from the basically the same place: a weak and small being whos potential was near limitless and was only limited by how they thought and moved
    because: babies do think, in fact most of the things that are ground so deep in our minds we don’t ever have to think about them are thoughts or feeling that we had when we were laying in a crib, sitting on the floor, crawling around the house, finding things that gave you wonder and influenced how you interact with all things that you would come to find in your life, which in turn influence how you would react.
    react to things that are more complex that cause you to think more complexly but with the root of the grain going back to your simple beginnings so that you can now choose how you will respond to a situation and how you will act in lack of a situation(free-time)builing your hobbies and therfore “talents”

  32. ok, let me just apply a little spurious remover to that last comment I posted, above.

    That doesn’t rule out people who have trained and trained at something, to eventually become skilled. But in my opinion, “talent” describes a natural propensity.

  33. Coldheart:

    Nice point.

    Something I was going to raise was how chldren of artists or musicians, may have a disposition toward art or music, respectively. But, indeed, this could be more down to the fact that the parents of these children spent more time being musicians and artists around the developing child, than that these ‘talents’ were genetically passed on.

    Any social/behavioural scientists or geneticists reading, care to join in? Evidence either way would be great.

  34. AS a child I just loved what I was good at. I studied and worked to become very good at it. I have never quit studying and working. When people see my work and say “You are so talented”, I have always replied, that it is not talent, it is study and hard work.

  35. No, no, no, no.
    There has always been decent painting and as a common commodity, it has little value, tho it’s easy to admire that someone is good at it, just like hey– that bus driver is pretty good.

    But here we have a new marketing angle–to sell this basic copied stuff for a lot more. But that’s all it is, more marketing bullshit for the artworld. Everyone of these examples is derived from the stuff they are copying–not an original bone in here. Though they are good bus drivers.

    The opposite approach would be better. When you guys review this manufactured art, the people that do it poorly often have a brilliant edge of originality to their work because they can’t do the knocking off right. But you always miss these undiscovered geniuses bcs ll y cr bt s yr brng mrktng pln. Andy Warhol was brilliant because he couldn’t get Abstract Expressionism right. Bt y mrktng sshls tht r kllng tr rt r jst lk ths pntrs–y dn’t hv n rgnl bn t spk f. Y’r jst sbcncsly cpyng mr Wrhl ds. Bt y thnk y’r grt cs nw y dd y’r slf prtt mrktng pln. Bt gss wht? Y’r jst bs drvr mrktrs. Th rl mrktng gnss r lkng n th ttlly ppst drctn.
    S y’r bs drvr mrktrs tht hv n fct, mssd th bs. Bt wht y’r dng s sr thn brllnt rt mrktng, s y’r clggng th rt wrld wth nsgnfcnt clttr.
    So why don’t you go and do your 60% of the worlds marketing in the Procter and Gamble village and leave us alone…

  36. These “paintings” may have done using “paint” but they are as far from ART as Wonder Bread is from artisan French bread!

    No museum or gallery would ever show these. The artists are obviously self-taught —yuck. Take them away. I’d paint over them or burn them. I guess you have to kiss a thousand artists to get a prince with talent.

  37. This has been an interesting discussion, but I don’t see mention of two important elements. I believe for a discussion of “talent” you ought to include “passion.” You can teach someone the skills to use materials, and they may or may not have the propensity to pick it up with any degree of expertise, but when you add passion to those skills, then I think you get creativity – you get creative leaps. Also, I believe there is a very great difference in calling mass produced reproductions “art,” and works created individually from the mind and heart of the artist. Originality, passion, leaps of creativity beyond the simple use of skills – could not these components be part of “talent?”

  38. “It’ll be interesting to see what these artists produce when left on their own. Hopefully this is a start.”

    I believe the “artists” were left on their own. They chose to make money by copying existing work that has has a market.

    “Art” has always been an industry. This village is no different then a bakery to the baker.

  39. When you guys review this..
    But you always.. ..because all you care about..
    But you marketing assholes..
    You’re just subconciously copying..
    But you think you’re grea..
    You’re just bus driver marketers..

    Who is that addressed to? I imagine you’d get a better response by writing it on a piece of paper and mailing it to someone in Dafen, or regional-office.com at least. There is no one here who can respond to that diatribe, and there were some valid points buried in it.


    ..and Alamedared

    How is the self-portrait above not art? Not all art has to have the Mysteries of the Universe in it.

    The artists are obviously self-taught —yuck.

    Please tell me that your whole post was a deeply sarcastic, (ironic even) joke, or a comment on something else, because you sound like an angry, aggressive, failed-artist with a massive chip on your shoulder.

  40. arkizzle:

    yes i agree, i also think personality develops and dictates if children will imitate what they see or not or whether they will ‘rebel’

    art c

    orignality is good, of course, but so is the ability to recreate not just your works but others too


    yes passion may play a role in talent
    but many people are greatly inspired by artists and have passion welling in them but also they find that they don’t have what it takes for others to see it expressed in their works

    art is expression
    we express ourselves in all that we do
    therfore: everything is art
    but obviously we don’t see everything as art.
    only things that resonate with us: find something that resonates with everyone (or those whom others model themslves after) and you have a masterpiece

  41. #51, I’m not sure people are calling the mass-produced works “Art” (i’m certainly not), but the self-portraits (some more than others) are really very good, and are absolutely individual works (if not entirely original, 3 of the 6 are as originial as any day-to-day gallery might display).

    Also, there really is a difference between art and Art, maybe not with an established convention, but certainly colloquially, and maybe we need to define the two better.

    Interestingly, a portion of work that has come down from the renaissance masters was completely observational, with not much discernable difference in style from painter to painter, and no amazing-hidden-truth, including self portraits. It’s mostly technique, and we love it.

    Here are some well executed self-portraits, but because they were done by professional copyists (in factory-nation China) rather than long-suffering, bay-area art school graduates, they are suddenly judged on some lofty, holier-than-thou scale.. If we saw some of those portraits on gallery walls, we would be impressed. Yes, some are derivative, some not. Like all art, or Art.

  42. There is one thing people have all forgotten: most of the reprodution paintings are western style paintings with orders from abroad; few if any are Chinese style paintings. The need for those reproduction paintings is from the west, not from China. Indeed, if you have ever visited an original painting market in China, you would notice that most of the paintings there are of Chinese style. The Chinese painters may paint reproductions for a living. However, they may not be able to find the resonance within them to have enough passion. There is a culture gap. And that’s the same reason why real Chinese style paintings never enter the western market.

  43. Hi,

    I agree with Wind’s comment.
    Although of course a good painting will please most people from wherever they are; influenced by several variants.
    There are indeed very talented artists there and unfortunately they don’t earn as they should.
    I hope that this changes in the future for the sake of the eastern and western artists.

    Take care,


  44. Prsnlly cn’t stnd th prcdnc f _____, prcncvd ds f wht _____ s, r th tttds tht hv bn cltvtd rgrdng _____.

    lft bhnd ______, t fnd smthng tr. Sr th pssy ws gd, bt gt gd pssy nw dng ______.

    dd fnd tht tlnt sn’t rlly th wrd bst dscrbng th mtvtn fr ndvdl ccmplshmnts. Wkr ppl s t t xpln why sm gy cn _____ nd thy cn nt______.

    Sclly w nd “tlnt” t xpln ndvdl ccmplshmnts s mgcl.

    n lngr rly n th wrds tlnt r tlntd t jstfy why ws gd t ____ nd nw ’m gd t _____. rlz nw t’s bcs hv n ppsbl thmb nd n nntrl nd t cvr my gntls.

    *Y cn fll n th blnks s ndd.

  45. anyone who can remember their grandparents and has lived long enough to see grandchildren knows full well there is such a thing as genetic “talent”.

    As to this “art”: who buys it? I would not. I would possibly buy the self portrait. Where is the market for a million Mona Lisa’s? Does education require that much?

    Clearly, this unregulated art is misappropriation of scant resources and a waste of valuable time. Artists should be required to be licenced after a series of rigorous examinations. I volunteer to sit as arbiter.

  46. My parents were research scientists and I am completely inclined to the arts. The only talent that I inherited from them is drinking.


    China does not have the gay. You hurt the feeling of a whole nation when you say that.

  47. “Clearly, this unregulated art is misappropriation of scant resources and a waste of valuable time. Artists should be required to be licensed after a series of rigorous examinations. I volunteer to sit as arbiter.”

    You share a similar view of an infamous world leader…. Adolph Hitler.

    “Anyone who can remember their grandparents and has lived long enough to see grandchildren knows full well there is such a thing as genetic “talent”.”

    Ths s l.

    Gntcs’ gt blmd fr vrythng. Hmsxlty, lchlsm, tn prgnncy, nd nw ndvdl ccmplshmnts…why cn’t ppl jst b gd t gttng prgnnt s tngr bcs thy chs t. Why cn’t smn jst b gd t drnkng br nd dmstc vlnc bcs thy chs t, nd why cn’t sm dd b gd t pntng pctr bcs h…wnts t wr htts lk blnkt f flsh.
    Scnc s th dth f ndvdl chc nd ccmplshmnts.

  48. Adolf’s watercolours were NEVER as good as mine.

    Genetics matters. Genetics is real. Science works, bitches.

    Of course there is a genetic component to music,math and visual art as well as physical abilities. It may not be the whole, but is unquestionably part.

    If people wish to abuse this fact or ignore it, feel free. It still remains.

  49. Wow!! I bet they could do the “Dogs”, ya know? I really like the one’s where they are playing pool, although playing poker is cool too. I think they should include Pamela Anderson in a really skimpy bikini though, ya know? Just for art sake. I also think whoever is painting these things could be as good a president as we now have, but maybe a little more organized if they tried. God bless them. Do you think they might do new cereal boxes too? I think this sort of activity might be illegal.

  50. Recognition of irony really only happens in the last seconds of one’s life.

    Irony is like luck in this way. No such thing as good or bad luck until the games ending.

    Writers often attempt at creating irony. In my opinion that’s as stupid as the notion that one can reconize irony.

  51. @#6- Nearly all of the Chinese people I have known in Taiwan and China, especially successful ones, have been near obsessive hard workers and passionate about education (especially for their poor, overtaxed children). That’s not to say that they don’t burn incense and get their fortunes told, but there seems to be a broad consensus that you can make your own fate, or at least improve yourself by your own efforts, rather than, as the old saying goes, standing on the hillside with your mouth open waiting for a roasted duck to fly in.

  52. I really am curious: who BUYS these things?

    The copies? They’re very popular. Mona Lisa’s a little weird, but the landscapes and fruit bowls are generic enough that most people are unfamiliar with the originals.

    Successful sculptors now commonly design a piece and have it executed by minions, sometimes in multiple. I wouldn’t be surprised to see painting go the same way. It would be like buying a limited edition print, except painted. Needless to say, many artists are horrified that potential customers might buy a $100 painting from China rather than their own original artwork. I don’t know that I think that the markets have that much overlap.

  53. In the west of Ireland, amongst other places, there used to be (and could still be for all I know) a roaring trade in generic, seaside-y oils. They were absolutely done production-line style, and sold to American tourists.

    Even though there was slight variation from canvas to canvas, they were generally the same picture, over and over, and standing in front of the seller, you could clearly see the sameness, yet people would lap them up.

    It’s not so different here really (with the reproductions), and come to think of it, when I was in Morocco a few years ago, Essaouira had a similar trade.

  54. As an artist, I hardly think that copying is a form of flattery. It really grinds my gears when someone steals my idea, and then takes credit for it. Even though they don’t claim to be the original creators of the work, they’re still copying, and making a profit. Da Vinci would be really pissed, if he knew! However, As a consumer, living in this day and age, I’m kind of happy that I now can afford a Mona Lisa in my living room. Now, more people can be have beautiful oil paintings in their homes, not just the filthy rich. Sorry, Da Vinci.

  55. The story is wonderful. But, a person would be remiss to describe the paintings as technically proficient – an error to go with the times. The advent of the camera obliterated for the layperson the motive for a study of drawing and painting. Prior to that there was a great deal of connoisseurship. A Corot is all the more wondrous if you’ve spent you’re time outside with a sketch box, diligently. The drawing, composition and color and voice here is all very shabby – it looks, indeed, like the creative work of third tier copyist. For comparison see the State Russian Museum copyists: http://www.artsstudio.com/reproductions/painting_online_2008.htm

    There are oodles and oodles of artists, as many as the Universities can sell, but very few painters….

  56. paint this

    Beijing gags anti-Western online anger

    Crackdown as China worries about the flare-up of nationalist passions in the run-up to Olympics

    * Mark Magnier in Beijing
    * The Observer,
    * Sunday April 20 2008

    This article appeared in the Observer on Sunday April 20 2008 on p35 of the World news section. It was last updated at 00:00 on April 20 2008.

    As Chinese nationalism flares across cyberspace, the government is growing concerned that passions could spill over into the real world, and that anger directed against foreigners could turn inward. Critics contend that Beijing has had a role in fanning the xenophobic sentiment to counter international condemnation of its crackdown on Tibetan rioters, but now Chinese officials appear to be trying to reduce the vitriol.

    Chinese censors have quietly warned cyber-police and internet businesses to delete all information related to protests against Western policies, nations or companies that have proliferated in the wake of demonstrations surrounding the global Olympic torch relay and high-level calls to boycott the opening ceremony of the summer games in Beijing. A notice issued last week by China’s ‘Internet Inspection Sector’ instructs recipients to reset the keywords used to block access to certain websites, relay the instructions through all internet distribution channels and then delete the notice in a timely manner. ‘Such information has shown a tendency to spread and, if not checked in time, could even lead to events getting out of control as they did with the 9 April incident against Japan,’ says the censors’ notice.

  57. hilarious part is Carrefour is telling the truth and has nothing to do with it all

    Published: April 20, 2008

    BEIJING — Armed with her laptop and her indignation, Zhu Xiaomeng sits in her dorm room here, stoking a popular backlash against Western support for Tibet that has unnerved foreign investors and Western diplomats and, increasingly, the ruling Communist Party.

    Over the last week, Ms. Zhu and her classmates have been channeling anger over anti-China protests during the tumultuous Olympic torch relay into a boycott campaign against French companies, blamed for their country’s support of pro-Tibetan agitators. Some have also called for a boycott against American chains like McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

    On Friday and Saturday, protesters gathered in front of a half-dozen outlets of the French retailer Carrefour, including a demonstration in the central city of Wuhan that reportedly drew several thousand people, according to Agence France-Presse. On Saturday, about 50 demonstrators carrying banners held a brief rally at the French Embassy here before the police shooed them away.

    For the moment, however, most of the outrage is confined to the Internet. More than 20 million people have signed online petitions saying they plan to stop shopping at the Carrefour chain, Louis Vuitton and other stores linked to France because of what they see as the country’s failure to protect the torch during its visit to Paris two weeks ago.

  58. Takuan asked who buys these things; if volume is not an indication of demand, they are bought by the same people who would have bought the Poker Dogs in the past. They are the untold millions. Legion.

  59. Legion? Does that mean we’ll end up holed up in a high rise with a sniper rifle waiting for nightfall?

  60. Does anybody have the images/page in their cache?! The site is down and I am trying to send my friends this article plus the images, and have only managed to gather the van gogh/da vinci ones.

  61. The advent of the camera obliterated for the layperson the motive for a study of drawing and painting.

    Yes, I remember that lesson from the first time I did art history. Unfortunately it’s a far too simplistic view of the many-limbed beast that is both personal expression, and personal enjoyment of other’s expression.

    It’s esstentially like saying that playing the drums became redundant when drum machines were invented, or playing music at all, with the invention of sequencers.

    Unfortunately for that position (and fortunately for us) realistic/photorealistic/hyperrealistic drawing and painting have enjoyed a growing, happy, diverse history since the camera initially caused artiists to turn to the more expressionistic/interperative/abstract styles.

    And although realistic representaton did lose ground, the ubiquitousness of the camera, has made a good drawing even more valuable, and made the layperson appreciate the difference.

  62. Arkizzle@79

    Close but no cigar. Drumming didn’t become obsolete when drum machines came along…but playing music as a major form of after-dinner recreation died off when records became available.

    In much the same way, sketching things to remember them has been mainly replaced by photography. Yes, some people still sketch, but most take snapshots while on holiday or to record the everyday events of life.

  63. playing music as a major form of after-dinner recreation died off when records became available

    Playing music as a major form of after-dinner recreation died off when households no longer had a phalanx of servants to do all the dirty work, leaving the leisure class to paint teacups and learn the piano. The induction of women into the workforce exacerbated the trend. The advent of the radio and phonograph then filled a growing niche. Realistically, I would guess that causation flows in both directions in this case.

  64. Antinous@81

    I’m not enough of a historian to truly argue the point, but if it were only the well-off who were doing it–well, those aren’t the people where the wives were going out to work. On the other hand, I’m rich enough to afford a phalanx of servants; one’s a box that sits in the kitchen to handle dishes and a couple that sit in the basement to handle laundry. But I’m not seeing a resurgence of home music get-togethers.

  65. Being an artist myself, there are some points here that I would like to add my comments to, which might elude those who have not attempted, over years of work, to create ‘art’.

    There is something called “technique”. It can be taught and learned. The Chinese apparently called in the Italians who taught them the techniques of glazing, underpainting, color palette, impasto, etc.. When a Masterpiece such as the Mona Lisa is copied, one merely applies these techniques, and renders the image via a copying technique, and voila! you have another Mona Lisa… sort of.

    Copying is not difficult to do, and is also an excellent learning process, which one can then apply to painting one’s own paintings. But this is where the rubber meets the road, and this is where something which might be called ‘talent’ or ‘vision’ or ‘genius’ might come into play.. or not.

    There is a lot of art today which uses little or no ‘schooled’ technique, and is regarded as ‘art’ because it is colorful, shocking, pretty, interesting, or triggers associations in the viewer’s mind. Either way, it can legitimately be called art. But as one learns more about art, and what constitutes good or great art, one learns that there is much more to it than appearances. For instance, did you know that the smile that plays about the corners of Mona Lisa’s mouth is the result of Leonardo deeply investigating the optical illusions that are occur naturally when the human eye roves over an object? The retinal cells see slightly differently than the pupil, thus something can be made to appear when viewed indirectly, but is not as visible when viewed directly. There is so much more to say about his use of shadowing and color, but suffice it to say that this genius worked long and hard to produce this painting which is universally regarded as a masterpiece. And yes, Leonardo was talented.

    Talent is something many of us have, but few of us use. It can be honed through diligent work and many other factors, which may include adequate income, encouragement and passion, or not. We may admire someone who makes the effort to try something that we have not attempted, and we call them ‘talented’. But for those who have worked in the creative fields, or any field for that matter, there is something that sets some people apart from others… they are good at what they do, better than most, be it in social relations, marketing, music, programming… whatever. It’s an inscrutable combination of factors, who knows what it is… ? But their results show something extraordinary.

    When we look at the self-portrait of this Chinese artist, we are struck by the technical proficiency first.. it IS a good painting, in that regard. But great portraiture has something else going for it, just as great literature does. It looks deeper, sees further, and shows us something that we may not have seen without the hand of the artist to bring it into view.

    The difference between an artist and a copyist, is much like the difference between a musician who only does covers, and has no original work. Oh, they may put together something which can be called their unique work, but the sound, the ideas, the style, the innovation, freshness, tilt, power.. whatever you want to call it… is not a contribution to the artform. It is a repetition. A good one, perhaps, but not one which awes us, wins our heart and comes to live inside us as a star in the firmament of music.

    Artists… real artists in all fields… reach deeply inside themselves, into those areas where most never venture, and return with treasures that enrich our world.

    In traditional Asian arts, this is a process of approaching perfection inside an established artform… for instance, Ink Landscapes. He or she is regarded as a master when he can accomplish a visually beautiful landscape painting with a brevity of strokes, each stroke a perfection of line and touch. It can take many years to reach this level. Some are naturally talented, yes, and can do marvellous things rather early in their career, but they work diligently at it and continue to perfect themselves.

    Modern Western art does not limit itself to traditional artforms or syles. We are wide open, and it becomes more difficult to discern what is better art than most. This is where the viewer’s eye must be educated… good or great art is partly technique, and greatly heart and feeling… and many a grizzled artist would tell you there is an element of luck at work. Not all their work are masterpieces. Very few are.

    For most of the art-buying public, these Chinese reproductions are all they need to decorate their homes. It requires no discernment, it looks good over the couch, and it is already accepted by their peers, and won’t challenge any of their friends too much. Wherein lies the secret behind the New York art market… but that’s for another post.

  66. #80 Eevee, both the examples you have provided, relate to the activities (music and sketch) in a non artistic/domestic fashion, like taking holiday snaps. It’s easy to say everyday people don’t draw to remember anymore, but that isn’t a discussion of Art, it’s a discussion of technology.

    And what does your extremely limited example of after-dinner music have to do with the fair of actual music? To be more honest with your example, rather than just after-dinner music, we should ask: did all live music die out with the advent of the phonograph?

  67. The paintings and the idea are interesting, but the text is near-unreadable. “productively collaborated”… “otherwise commoditized community”… “facets of the artists identities subsumed by the styles and relationships they maintain”… “Regional’s cooperation with emerging enterprise forms that are internationalizing the village”… Ick.

    Hey, Regional? Instead of “asking selected individuals, some for the first time, to imagine themselves in their professional medium,” try “we asked them to paint self-portraits.”

  68. Arkizzle@84

    It’s easy to say everyday people don’t draw to remember anymore, but that isn’t a discussion of Art, it’s a discussion of technology.

    To go back to post 79, to which my comment was aimed.

    The advent of the camera obliterated for the layperson the motive for a study of drawing and painting.

    Notice the word “Layperson” in the quote.

    As far as live music goes…I can’t help but feel that on a per capita level, there’s nowhere near as much live music as there was before you could purchase recordings.

  69. Speaking as an artist:

    Why don’t you take a look over at some online art communities, and witness the anger of living artists who have had their copyrights violated and find reproductions of their original work for sale in the very same venues they try to sell at online, for hundreds of dollars less. Who’s making these reproductions and stealing business right out from under the artists? The guys this article tries to cast in a positive light. These “artists” are not artists, they are thieves and they have absolutely no respect for the true artists they steal from. The general art buying public is not “sophisticated” enough in the goings-ons of the other side of the art market to recognize fraud. Quite often the fraudulent paintings are sold under the name of one single person, as if that person created an original. So you see, I resent these criminals being called artists. They are nothing like us (us being real artists, that is.)

    /rant off

  70. I think there is two different conversations going on here.. I don’t think anyone is saying that the reproductions are to be lauded as art, I imagine most people would consider this a fraudulent act (certainly for lesser known works, everyone knows the Mona Lisa and Van Gogh stuff, and wouldn’t mistake them for original painting, more on the level of a print or poster).

    However, just because these people may have a job that makes them a criminal, you can’t judge them as not artists for that reason. Their work (not their reproductions) may be Art (or not) but that is not dependent on their profession. A bank robber may be an artist by day.. One has no bearing on the other.

    That said, each ‘artist’ listed above may indeed have been unduly influenced by the works they reproduce everyday, but I’ve been influenced by many amazing artists too, and an observer could probably see the influences in my work, but that wouldn’t sway me from being an artist or not.. maybe a crap one, but an artist nonetheless

  71. As far as the ‘talent’ argument, all I can bring to it is my own personal experience. I was adopted at 6 months old. Neither of my adoptive parents is artistic in any way. At the age of 2, I did my first wall mural of cats…in crayon, on my bedroom wall. Yeah, I got my butt tanned by Mom for that. However, my cats were recognizably CATS. My Dad didn’t punish me, but went out and bought a blackboard and chalk for me to draw upon. By age four I was drawing all sorts of proper animals, and judging by the few surviving pieces that my Dad saved, for a four year old who had zero influence or technique from parents, it was obvious that I indeed had a “talent” for being able to draw forth from my mind’s eye, and recreate that which I imagined, as I imagined it.

    Personally, I would indeed call that a talent. One that others share, yes…but still uncommon. Uncommon enough that those who share a creative instinct and ability are referred to as artists.

    You cannot take a person who does not have this ability, and make them an exceptional, spontaneous artist. The talent for making real what is only imagined, must be there to begin with.

    Perhaps the word Ability is more accurate than Talent.

  72. UPUPNDUPPY: The retinal cells see slightly differently than the pupil

    The pupil doesn’t see. The pupil is the gateway for light rays to reach the retinal wall, which does see — sort of. Correctly speaking, the retinal cells detect light, and the brain assembles it into the experience we call seeing. I think you might have been trying to explain the difference between the fovea and the rest of the retina, where areas of the world whose light falls on the fovea are seen in greater detail and sharper focus, but I can’t really tell.

    Rlly, f y’r gng t gv lctr n d Vnc’s prfcncy n ptcs, y shld knw whrf y spk frst.

  73. So much for my great idea for a DIY art book: Paint Your Own Modernist Masterpiece. It’s too bad. Somewhere I still have stashed a list of tips and tricks for it, like: You can get away with anything if you look like you really mean it, so work big. Or: if you don’t like your finished picture, divide it into n pieces of identical size, and hang them at a precise distance from each other. Or: take an image, blow it way up, put light behind it and a translucent sheet of paper over it, and re-render the image in heavy lines and strong colors. Or: don’t try to do Motherwell unless you have a really big wall to put it on. Or: that Jackson Pollock paint drips thing is harder than it looks.

    I’m not worried about the Chinese undercutting me in the contemporary abstract market. The Indians have already got that covered.

    Badkitty @90: Complete agreement here.

    No one knows how much talent they have for a particular medium until they put the necessary work into learning its techniques. However, some people who put the work in will get a lot better, get better a lot faster, and hit a much higher level of overall quality, than other people who do just as much work. That’s talent at work.

    Talent plus originality plus the right turn of mind for a medium can substitute for a lot of training. For instance, there are a lot of writers who could learn to write passable science fiction, or genre fantasy. There are far fewer who would be trying to invent it on their own if they’d never seen an example and didn’t know that the form exists. Artists like that tend to have much more satisfactory creative lives if they do run into the body of established practice, so that they don’t spend so much time reinventing the wheel.

    If you don’t have the talent or turn of mind or whateve you want to call it for creative work in a particular medium, you can probably learn to do passable work in it, but you’ll never be great. You may not even be good. Also, you’ll work very hard for every inch of improvement.

    I’ve spent many years working professionally with artists. I know the difference between talent and technique. Both are necessary if you’re going to be seriously good at something.

    I could, with a great deal of work, manage to compose music. My husband can roll it out like yard goods, improvisationally, at the same time that he’s reading a book or magazine. I can laboriously put together rhymed verse, but I’m not in the same universe as Mike Ford or Abigail Sutherland. I’m good at fixing and analyzing plots but not at making them, the way Jim Macdonald is. My brother Matthew has a talent for visual art that was obvious when he was so young that he should have still been at the “scribble with a crayon” stage. I’m not half bad at building and fixing and miscellaneous mechanical stuff, but I know people who have real talent for it — enough so that I’d classify it as an art form.

    That’s fine with me. I’m good at what I’m good at.


    AlmedaRed @50, all artists are self-taught. It helps if they’re also taught by others; but what others can teach you is not enough.

    ArtistVictoriaC @88: Oh yeah? Name names. Who do you know who’s so prominent and popular that Chinese reproduction artists bother stealing their stuff? I’ve been looking at their sites for years. They’re big on Van Gogh, Alma-Tadema, Klimt, Bouguereau, Fragonard, Botticelli, Cassatt, and the Impressionists and Pre-Raphaelites.

    Pocket Hell, I have absolutely no use for someone who holds the conversation in contempt.

  74. Fortunately, I live beside the village, I would like to reply some questions:

    (1) Dan O’Huiginn @ #4;
    Not only reproduction oil painting, but also many original oil paiting and the great mass of portrait! I have collected some relational linked articles on my website: http://www.pntng-rm.cm/Nws.sp, for your reference.

    (2) Takuan @ #6:
    I am a Han Chinese, fit like a glove, I tend to agree with your latter three: hard work, learning and native tale. In China, many people work hard slavishly, many students learn hard slavishly…, maybe, it isn’t a happy life.

  75. #95: Hmmm … Well, Boing Boing is generally in the habit of linking to interesting or informative web sites (but not usually to purely commercial ones).

    If you could put together a nice, informative site/blog about it, that might have some chance of being linked (I would guess).

    Meanwhile, we can continue the discussion in this thread (which we’ve gone and brought back from the dead, aka necroed).

    So, I have a few questions:

    1. Do you employ the artists directly, or “contract out”?

    2. What kind of wage/fee do they get for the reproductions? (With some context – it’s obviously pretty low, but how does this compare in terms of buying power, etc to other workers in China?)

    3. Is most of the work you process reproduction, or is some of it (as is mentioned in this thread) original?

    I’ll have to think of a few more, but those should be a decent start.

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