It’s no secret that the sale fake works of world famous artists is a profitable business. It’s not about forgery, though. It’s about copying and imitation. In recent decades, the commercial mass-produced art of this kind is, largely, made in China. Chinese jostled for the leading place by putting “production of art” on an assembly line, literally.
The city of Shenzhen in the southeastern province of Guangdong, near the border with Hong Kong, is a home of a great number of “art factories” where thousands (!) of Chinese artists stamp copies of the world masterpieces — paintings, drawing, graphic art etc.
And not only masterpieces either. Anything that would be of interest to consumer is copied and mass-produced — all sorts of popular images from icons and souvenirs to portraits of politicians and kitschy landscapes.
Majority of Shenzhen’s “workers of art” are recent graduates of colleges and Academies of Arts. The young artists have very little choice but to earn a living this way — the art field is fiercely competitive and highly unpredictable, their own works rarely sell and cannot support their livelihoods.
The cost of these mass-produced replicas, however, is very low, which is quite frustrating for the European (and American) copyists — they simply cannot compete.
A good copy of, say, Van Gogh produced at such an art co-operative can cost as low as $10 to $20.
Clearly, dealers and distributors command much greater prices when they sell the “products” to Westerners. The prices vary widely, “customized” to lure middle-income buyers, and always depend on the state local art markets.
Photos by Reuters. Material for this post, in Russian, can be found here.