Van Gogh on Demand: China and the Readymade

Winnie Wong
Berkeley Book Chats
The book cover for Van Gogh on Demand by Winnie Wong
Wednesday, Apr 22, 2015 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall
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United States

Professor of Rhetoric Winnie Wong specializes in the history and present of artistic authorship, with a focus on interactions between China and the West. Her book, Van Gogh on Demand: China and the Readymade (University of Chicago Press, 2014), explores contemporary art in the world's largest production center for oil-on-canvas painting, Dafen village, China.

Van Gogh on Demand argues that the global contemporary art world is shaped by two powerful ideas: the postmodern assertion of "the death of the author" and the universalist notion that "everybody is an artist." Wong focuses on an unlikely case of global art production, China's Dafen Oil Painting Village, a production center of eight thousand Chinese painters who produce five million oil paintings per year, sourced from the Western art canon and made for the world's retail and wholesale markets. Based on five years of fieldwork in this transnational trade, Wong’s study offers a comprehensive account of this "readymade" art. Her narrative centers on two unique sets of "authors": internationally-active artists who made Dafen village into a source of appropriated paintings and a subject of conceptual art; and the Chinese party-state which turned Dafen village into a model cultural industry and the subject of extensive propaganda spanning television and the World Expo. Wong examines the encounter between contemporary artists and the Dafen painters whose labor they appropriate, tracing critical issues of artistic authorship and assessing their deployment at a site of anonymous production.

After an introduction by Michael Mascuch (Rhetoric), Wong will speak briefly about her work and then open the floor for discussion.