In the post-Mao era, Dafen village in Shenzhen, China, became the world's largest production center for oil on canvas paintings, supplying the world with millions of works each year, and by my argument, altering our perspective on the globalism of contemporary conceptual art. What are the genealogies of this trade, its global networks, and its aesthetic frames? In this presentation, I describe several painterly and artisanal contexts of Sino-European exchange that pre-date Dafen village by two centuries. Examining the conditions of labor as well as patron-painter relations across radically distinct artistic cultures, I trace the origins of the art historical paradigms which have rendered southern China the ingenious heart of European "imitation."
Winnie Wong is a historian of modern and contemporary art and visual culture, with a special interest in fakes, forgeries, frauds, copies, counterfeits, and other non-art challenges to authorship and originality. Her research is based in the southern Chinese cities of Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and her writing engages with Chinese and Western aesthetics, intellectual property law, and popular culture. She is the author of Van Gogh on Demand: China and the Readymade, published by the University of Chicago Press (2014). Winnie is currently writing a second book, a new art history of export painting and the Canton Trade, 1760-1842. Her research has been supported by fellowships from the Social Science and Research Council, the Council of Library and Information Resources, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Harvard University Milton Fund. Winnie holds a PhD in the History and Theory of Art from the Department of Architecture at MIT, (2010), and was a Junior Fellow of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University (2010-2013). She is currently Assistant Professor teaching visual culture in the Rhetoric Department at the University of California, Berkeley.