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Creating a 'Dafen Lisa'

MORE than 500 painters have created a giant "Dafen Lisa." Each painter contributed small paintings to create a massive version of the classic Mona Lisa.

The huge portrait of Mona Lisa measures 43-meters long and 7-meters high. It was created on January 28 and is now featured on the front facade of the Shenzhen Pavilion at the Urban Best Practices Area.

"Dafen Lisa" is made up of 999 oil painting segments of various sizes that were put together like a jig-saw puzzle. However, the original style, individuality and mindset of each painting has been retained, and painters wrote their names, ages, hometowns and dreams on the back of each painting.

Over the past two decades, the Mona Lisa, along with other classic artworks, have been repeatedly reproduced in Dafen, an obscure village in Guangdong Province, and then shipped around the world.

Once a poor inner-city village, Dafen has become the world's largest manufacturer of oil paintings.

It now has more than 700 painting studios and its products are distributed in more than 60 percent of the global market. In 2007, Dafen's trade volume reached 430 million yuan (US$63.2 million).

Meng Yan, the chief designer of the Shenzhen Pavilion, said, "In Dafen village, it is neither an individual artist's experiment, nor a mere copy of a classic, it is a collaborative creation - a conceptual art piece involving a great number of Dafen painters."

The pavilion, with the theme, "Dafen Village, the Regeneration of an Urban Village in Shenzhen," attracts more than 10,000 visitors every day, said Li Jian, deputy operation director of the pavilion.

Before the country's reform and opening-up in the late 1970s, more than 300 villagers in Dafen earned a living as farmers. However, during the late 1980s, migrant workers moved to Dafen to work for manufacturers nearby.

In 1989, Hong Kong art dealer Huang Jiang and more than 20 painters and apprentices became Dafen's first art explorers. Huang recruited art students and migrant workers in Dafen to replicate oil paintings for his clients.

Painters worked on an assembly line, each painting one unit, as the final painting became a collective effort.

Later, the world famous paintings copied by Huang and his people were sold abroad. With increasing profits and fame, orders surged, which attracted more painters to Dafen.


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