As summer approaches, teachers are looking for new and exciting things to do with their time off. Not everyone has full weekends to take trips out of the city (as some people work weekends at training centers or have private lessons to attend to), so here’s a suggestion for a trip that will make you feel like you’ve left the busy city bustle behind while traveling along the convenience of the Shenzhen metro.
The Dafen Oil Painting Village is a gated community which marks its entrance with a sculpture of a large hand holding a paintbrush. The community started in the 1990’s when 20 artists who specialized in recreating paintings moved into the village. Since then, the demand for high quality recreations around the world has expanded rapidly. Currently, thousands of artists live within the community and sell their work all over the world.
As you walk around you can see people painting in every available space. Alley ways have lighting installed and canvasses hung on the walls, while painters deep in thought mix colours on well-worn palettes made of wood. The most popular works recreated here are by Van Gogh, Dali, da Vinci, Rembrandt and Warhol, but if you bring a high quality image with you, there will be at least one artist who can recreate any painting you like. Although the village specializes in paintings by other artists, you will also find many shops with originals hung on every spare piece of the wall. Visiting here is like walking through an incredible gallery, one tiny shop at a time.
Whether you need some art to hang on the walls of your new apartment in China, or you want to send something home to your family, Dafen will have something for everyone and at any price point. Competition among artists here is high and so bartering for prices is encouraged. Once you’ve agreed on a price, the artist will help you wrap up the painting and prepare it for mailing or just to take back on the metro.
If you’re not looking to buy any art, this place is still worth a visit as there isn’t a lot of sales pressure like in the local market atmosphere. I would recommend planning a visit during the warmer part of the year in the late afternoon or early evening. There are many convenience stores around the village and it’s quite enjoyable to grab a beer and just walk through the winding streets and watch people paint.People here are very passionate about their art and their way of life. Often a painter will see me admiring their work and pull up a chair for me to sit and chat. I haven’t found many people here who speak a lot of English, but it is such a great cultural experience to try to communicate with someone using body language and it often results in a lot of laughs.
If you’re interested in visiting, the village is located just a short walk away from the Dafen metro station and is also fairly easy to request a cab to as long as you have a translator with you. It will take you an hour or two to walk around and see all the gallery/shops. There is also an official art museum within the walls of the village (which could be an excellent side activity) and an excellent local restaurant back toward the street and metro station, which serves delicious vegetarian dishes. The village is very quiet during the winter as it’s quite cold out, so make sure to plan your trip this summer or fall while it’s vibrant and you can get the most of the experience.