New Geographies of Feminist Art: China, Asia, and the World

True Love and True Art in China’s Model Bohemia

Winnie Wong

Still from Hua zhi yuan, twenty-episode television drama, Guangdong Television Station, 2008.

Dafen Oil Painting Village in Shenzhen, China, is the world’s largest production center for handmade paintings, housing 8000 migrant workers who paint 5 million oil paintings a year. In 2004, Dafen village was named by China’s Ministry of Culture as a National Model Cultural Industry. Attendant with this honor, Chinese officials made Dafen village the subject of extensive propaganda spanning television to the World Expo.┬áThis paper examines two televisual propaganda constructions of this model bohemia and the inscription of Dafen’s women artists and bosses into a new narrative of gendered urban creativity. It examines how the local Chinese party-state imagines the transformation of its migrant workers into global creative workers, and why it exhorts them to “paint whatever you want to paint, love whomever you want to love.”