For a while, artist Christian Silvain had to stand by while Chinese artist Ye Yongqing received recognition for his artwork, which he had copied from Silvain. But since August 2023, that has changed.
The Chinese artist who had copied Silvain’s work has now been convicted of plagiarism by a Chinese court in Beijing. Ye Yongqing must pay substantial damages and also apologize in one of China’s largest newspapers. This situation is an unprecedented reversal, especially considering that even Bill Gates owns some artworks created by the Chinese artist. Ye’s copied artworks were even sold at well-known auctions such as Sotheby’s at the time.
Ye Yongqing, now famous in China and abroad, has been painting in exactly the same style as Silvain since he visited an exhibition in Paris in 1990. For three decades, Chinese artist Ye Yongqing has been making paintings that are almost exact copies of Silvain’s work. Moreover, he makes good money from it: a painting made by Yongqing was sold at auctions at well-known auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s for sums of up to 400,000 euros.
Jos Depypere has compiled an extensive dossier on Ye Yongqing. The file shows that Silvain was actually the first to begin making paintings in his famous style. “Silvain was six years earlier. We can clearly prove that. We therefore think that Yongqing attended an exhibition of Silvain’s in Paris or obtained a catalog. Only after that did he start working in the same style. Meanwhile, he has already made millions by copying Silvain’s paintings. By the way, he does not limit himself to copying entire works. Sometimes he only enlarges details. With one such painting, he has even exhibited in Brussels. Depypere’s file also shows that Yongqing copied the famous artist Pierre Alechinsky. “But he soon stopped doing that. Presumably Alechinsky’s entourage spoke to him about it.”
– Jos Depypere
Christian Silvain’s first exhibition in China took place in Shanghai in November 2019, organized by JIC Bookstore in collaboration with Galerie Jos Depypere. A second exhibition soon followed in Beijing.
After the world was hit with a worldwide lockdown in March 2020, its success experienced a slight downturn. Meanwhile, work continued on filing and working out the lawsuit in China. Until August 23, 2023, a first instance court in Beijing published its verdict in China’s largest newspaper. Plagiarism by Ye Yongqing was established, which is an unprecedented victory for a Belgian artist filing a case in China. Ye is ordered to pay damages of 650,000 euros and must publicly apologize in the newspaper.
With the just recognition of his original artwork and winning the plagiarism lawsuit against Ye Yongqing, a promising horizon opens up for Christian Silvain.
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