Dulwich Picture Gallery experiments with 'fake' painting

Interior of Dulwich Picture Gallery Made in China: A Doug Fishbone Project opens on 10 February

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Dulwich Picture Gallery has paid $120 (£79) to a Chinese studio to produce a copy of an Old Master painting, challenging visitors to spot the fake among its permanent collection.

Director Ian Dejardin said the experiment was "an intervention" that questioned the significance and value of original art.

"It will provoke a new way of looking at our collection," he said.

The identity of the replica, Made In China, will be revealed in April.

Conceptual artist Doug Fishbone came up with the idea, selecting the original work and commissioning the copy from one of China's numerous exporters of handmade oil paintings.

Southern China is the world's leading centre for mass-produced works of art.

The studios and workshops in the Dafen Village produce five million replicas a year for the global art market.

Fishbone hopes the experiment will raise questions about the nature and importance of an original work versus a replica.

"In the West, we see replicas as very problematic, as 'fakes' perhaps, whereas in China the notion of copying cultural artefacts is seen totally differently," he said.

"The idea of placing a Chinese replica in a Western museum then seemed like a loaded and exciting gesture. How do we see replicas in the West, and how does the institutional context in which a painting is exhibited effect how we react to it?"

Dulwich Picture Gallery was the first purpose-built public art gallery in England when it opened its doors in the south London suburb in 1811.

Invoice for replica painting The Chinese replica will be hung among the gallery's permanent collection of works

For three months, visitors will be invited to find the replicated painting, which will be hung among Dulwich's permanent display of 270 works.

The identity of the replica will be revealed in April, when it will be placed alongside the original for a further three months and the public encouraged to compare and contrast the two paintings.

The gallery said there was no risk that the experiment would devalue original works of art.

A spokeswoman said: "There is a long tradition of famous artworks being replicated. Old Master painters encouraged the iteration of their work, their workshops producing versions of their most sought after compositions."

Made In China: A Doug Fishbone Project opens on 10 February.

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