Dafen is a suburb of Buji, Longgang, Shenzhen in Guangdong province, China. In the early 1990s a group of about twenty artists under the leadership of the painter and businessman Huang Jiang took up residence in this town. They specialized in the making of large numbers of replicas of oil paintings by masters such as Van Gogh, Dalí, da Vinci, Rembrandt or Warhol.
These replicas were sold in many countries for relatively low prices.
The endeavor was quite successful and the demand for replicas increased. In order to fulfill the demand more and more artists took up residence and started to make a living, the estimate (2006) being in the thousands.
Many of the artists are trained at art academies in the required techniques and produce dozens of replicas daily.
The official policy states that these replicas are of paintings of artists who have died more than seventy years ago and than out of copyright.
It was at this point that auxiliary commercial avenues began to take root in the village. Quaint cafes, as well as more accessible "gallery shops" (predominantly fronts for anonymous art workers and addresses from which to tout for business both wholesale and retail) lent the village lucrative tourist appeal.
By the decade's end, Dafen was well and truly on Shenzhen's map, its success story absorbed into the city's narrative narrative. To that end, at the World Expo 2010 Shanghai, Shenzhen's Urban Best Practice pavilion featured a mosaic of 999 panels painted by more than than 500 art workers to recreate what was dubbed the Dafen Lisa.
At the village's eastern edge is the Dafen Museum: Allvisuous gray slate, the impressive architecture is fronted by a plaza intermittently occupied by pop-up markets, careening children, and older generations performing evening exercises. Opened in 2007, the museum was built by Urbanus, the same Shenzhen firm behind the city's ultra-contemporary OCT Art Terminal Shenzhen and Artron Art Center. The museum shows predominantly modern and contemporary art from China.