Eye on the future

Updated: 2011-11-04 08:55

By Liu Lu (China Daily)

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"My abstract-styled oil paintings are extremely popular among Chinese buyers, and I draw on average 100 such paintings every year," he says.

Eye on the future


Zeng says that sales proceeds from the 100 paintings match up to sales of over 1,000 Mona Lisa copies at a US gallery. "Domestic sales account for over 40 percent of the total turnover," Zeng says.

Aside from the economic benefits, Zeng says original artworks also give an experience of having accomplished something. In the past few years, several of his original artworks have been displayed at prominent art exhibitions in China and Europe, thereby boosting his popularity.

With more galleries in Dafen realizing the importance of producing their own paintings, it is only imperative that Dafen copy workers transform into "real artists".

According to the Dafen village administrative office, by current estimates there are more than 300 painters in Dafen who create original paintings, with half of them members of art associations at provincial level or above. The sales revenue of original paintings accounted for 30 percent of the gross sales of Dafen's paintings last year.

At the same time, Dafen has also tightened the screening process of artists' entrance into the village.

"What Dafen needs most is artists who can produce stylish and original works, and not just copiers," Peng says.

The flourishing original paintings sector in Dafen has also helped in the development of an art auction business in Shenzhen. In November 2006, Shenzhen Dafen Yihai Arts Auctioneer Company, the only auction house in China dealing exclusively with oil paintings, commenced operations in Dafen, with 80 percent of the auctioned items coming from Dafen artists.

According to He Ke, general manager of the auction house, the trading volume and hammer prices of Dafen's original paintings have risen steadily. Last year, a painting drawn by Ma Yingliang, a veteran Chinese artist, fetched record auction price of over 1.05 million yuan and set the benchmark for Dafen's original paintings.

Eye on the future
Output value of Dafen's oil painting business will reach 4 billion yuan this year. [Liu Lu / China Daily] 

"Let the market decide the value of each painting," he says, adding that auctions can better enhance the reputation of Dafen's original works and provide artists a new sales channel, as well as encourage them to upgrade their skills.

He says with the improved reputation of his auction house, more foreign artists and well-known Chinese painters are putting up their artworks for auction, thereby providing Dafen artists a platform to compete with oil painters at all levels from around the world.

"A few years ago there were many controversies about Dafen and some art professionals even looked down upon artists from Dafen. But with the concerted efforts in recent years, our original works have been gradually recognized in the market," He says.

According to Shenzhen's five-year plan, the Dafen oil painting village will be expanded into a cultural industry park that is three times bigger than the existing art village.

Apart from that, more high-end creative talent will be introduced and professors from art academies will train copy workers.

"Over time, Dafen will prove to the world that it has much more to offer than just cheap paintings," He says. "It is only a matter of time before a maestro oil painter will emerge from Dafen."

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