There’s a town called Dafen, in China, that accounts for over 60% of the world’s oil painting reproduction business. Almost half of the town’s population is employed as factory-style painters. There are 1,200 galleries in the city, and each year the town hosts a Dafen Copying Competition to see who can make the best imitations, reports the Harvard Businesses Journal.
This is an innovative way to create art prints on a grand scale: bypass modern technologies and instead feed a village while making a huge profit. You might have seen some of these painted knock-offs hanging in grand hotels on your travels, and like me, wondered why the hotel owners would invest in something so incredibly inauthentic. So expected. So safe.
Those that buy Dafen’s prints (or others like them) are definitely not supporting style, originality, or a sense of artistic purpose. They don’t even help us connect to the people or places we visit. That’s bad for you and bad for their business.
As I see it, the real value of art lies in its ability to create an emotional and personal connection between the buyer and the prints, and even the buyer and the artist.
Which is what this blog post is all about: choosing original art for its meaning instead of buying mass-produced prints as a quick remedy for home décor.
What do I mean by mass-produced?
While mostly everything gets printed for distribution these days, including Wild Wagon Co’s art prints and greeting cards, I’m talking about the large-scale reproductions. I’m referring to Dafen’s paintings, and also to the prints that sell on Amazon and at Target as wall décor.
Are they modern? Yes. Tasteful? Maybe. Original? No. At least, not now.
Even though once upon a time, an illustrator or photographer created their work during an inspired moment, mass production somehow lessens its value. It’s too available. Too convenient. You know it hangs in too many living rooms across the world.
This art is only accessible because it’s cheaper, and it only connects with more people because it’s marketed on a large scale. But mass producing drives out the authenticity factor, which is a staple principle for any artist.
True taste is born from personal history
Taste is, of course, a personal matter. As I’ve said many times, my taste for bright patterned motifs and contrasting reds and blacks was influenced by the folk art native to my home, Moldova.
I’ve since expanded my palate through my travels and schooling, but the emotional attachment to my early years shows through in my paintings. I’m sure it’s the same for most of you. What you’re exposed to – at any age – leaves its mark on your style.
Like this, art becomes part of our personal histories. The clothes we wear and the way that we decorate our homes tell a story of who we are.
Do you have mass-produced or personal style?
Without input and innovation, even people can end up looking more mass-produced than original.
Some people really like to copy another’s style. It takes less effort to get the effect, and anyway, it works for someone else. For example, they pin a look from Anthropologie and copy the whole outfit, even though Anthropologie’s décor and clothing lines are about creative self-expression.
For other people, style becomes an effortless flow of absorbing influences and interpreting them in their own way. Instead of copycat fashion, they mix and match the pieces that work for them. Their home reflects their own tastes and histories.
And actually, people notice and appreciate their style more than the others’ because it’s unique, authentic, and inspired.