Made In China: Can You Spot The Fake Painting?

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 39 months ago
Made In China: Can You Spot The Fake Painting? ★★★★★ 5
Will you be able to spot the replica painting among the genuine masterpieces? © Stuart Leech
Will you be able to spot the replica painting among the genuine masterpieces? © Stuart Leech
Artist Doug Fishbone sat within the Dulwich Picture Gallery's collection © Stuart Leech
Artist Doug Fishbone sat within the Dulwich Picture Gallery's collection © Stuart Leech
One of many workshops in Dafen village, a village that specialises in churning out millions of paintings a year. © Michael Mandiberg
One of many workshops in Dafen village, a village that specialises in churning out millions of paintings a year. © Michael Mandiberg

Londonist Rating: ★★★★★

If you want a replica of the Mona Lisa or Van Gogh's The Starry Night to hang in your living room, there are workshops in China that will ship one across for a trifling sum. Though this market is relatively unknown in the western world, it serves as the inspiration for conceptual artist Doug Fishbone's latest project, Made in China.

Fishbone sent a high resolution image of one of Dulwich Picture Gallery's masterpieces to China. The workshop here painted a replica, and shipped it over to south east London for just $126. The original has been replaced by the replica, and will hang in its place until all is revealed on 28 April, when real McCoy and imposter will sit side by side.

This is a brilliant idea — essentially turning every visitor into an art sleuth, before making a decision with tablets provided by the gallery. It's amazing what can be noticed when we really look at paintings — the hairline cracks, where the painting has clearly been extended, and even the inconsistency between works by the same artist... or does that mean we've spotted the replica? To be honest, we ended up taking an educated guess.

Made in China also brings important issues to light, such as the fact we all take labels next to the painting as gospel, and sometimes spend very little time looking at the painting itself. The show also raises questions about the value of replicas, and whether this one will now be worth more.

Here is conceptual art at its best — challenging the way we engage with paintings, raising questions around whether replicas are acceptable as art, and getting us all talking about the excellent permanent collection of the gallery, which is often ignored.

Made in China: A Doug Fishbone project is on at Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Road, SE21 7AD until 26 April. The replica will be revealed on 28 April and the two paintings remain neighbours until 26 July. Tickets for the gallery are £6 for adults, concessions available.

Also still on at the gallery are the excellent paintings of Emily Carr.

Last Updated 13 February 2015