F rom 10th February, visitors to Dulwich Picture Gallery in London will be setting the challenge to identify a Chinese replica hanging among the 270 Old Master paintings on display. The gallery will temporarily remove one of its paintings from the frame, replacing it with a replica produced by Meisheng Oil Painting Manufacture Co., based in Xiamen, a professional supplier of oil paintings that works with over 150 artists.
Southern China is the world’s leading centre for mass-produced works of art, with the famous Dafen Village producing a staggering five million replicas a year. For three months (10th February – 26th April) the public will be invited to identify the replicated painting at Dulwich, which will finally be revealed on Aprilth 2015 when it will hang side by side with the original. Those who guess correctly will win a custom print from the gallery’s collection, signed by Doug Fishbone.
Dulwich Picture Gallery is the oldest public art gallery in England, and the first purpose-built public art gallery in the world. Designed by Regency architect Sir John Soane it opened to the public in 1817 and houses one of the country’s finest collections of Old Masters, especially French, Italian and Spanish Baroque paintings and British portraits from Tudor times to the 19th century.
Doug Fishbone is an American artist living and working in London. He has exhibited at various galleries in London, including Tate Britain and the Hayward, as well as at international shows, including the Busan Biennale in South Korea. ‘Made in China: A Doug Fishbone Project’ explores the nature and importance of the original versus the copy, and the role of ‘art as commodity’ in today’s age of global mass production. Doug Fishbone explained:
“Hanging a replica will make visitors to Dulwich question their own judgement… a hidden copy puts everything open to suspicion and by the same token makes everything subject to more scrutiny. In this sense it’s a project about focus, attention even mindfulness.”
Today, famous paintings are being reproduced in the millions with China dominating this export market. However, many Old Master painters, from Titian to Rubens, encouraged the iteration of their work, of which there are several examples in Dulwich’s collection. The Gallery’s version of Venus & Adonis clearly demonstrates how Titian’s assistants would have mapped out the composition using a template, with the master coming along at the end of the process to add the finishing touches.