The documentary, called China’s Van Goghs, follows Chinese peasant farmer-turned-oil painter, Zhao Xiaoyong. He and his family have produced hundreds of thousands of copies of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh’s works including Sunflowers, The Starry Night and Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear.Produced and directed by Yu Tianqi along with her father Yu Haibo, the film gives a glimpse into Zhao’s life as a skilled painter of replicas, his obsession with Van Gogh and planning his dream trip to see the real paintings at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam – which is home to one of Zhao’s best clients.
While the film focuses on Zhao’s passion for van Gogh and how he pursued his dreams, it also tells a story of challenge and struggle, emblematic of the journey China has taken in recent years. Dafen has put itself on the map by creating art that is almost exact copies of masterpieces. Dafen, a village community in the town of Schenzhen in Guangdong province, is home to hundreds of alleyway studios where artists churn out thousands of replica paintings every year. The works, copies of masterpieces by Monet, Rembrandt, Warhol, Picasso and others, sell for around £450 apiece, with turnover reaching more than £65 million in 2015.