In a turn of events that has caught the international art community’s attention, Ye Yongqing, a respected professor of oil painting from China, is embroiled in a plagiarism controversy with Belgian artist Christian Silvain. Ye, who was born in 1958 and currently holds a professorship at the Chongqing-based Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, has been directed to pay a significant sum of 5 million yuan (approximately $683,340) in damages to Silvain for alleged infringement on the latter’s creative works.
Christian Silvain, aged 73, had brought the issue to the limelight in 2019 when he voiced his concerns to the Belgian press. He asserted that Ye had, over the span of decades since the 1990s, been consistently borrowing ideas from his artwork without providing due credit to the source. To add to the infringement, Ye also allegedly adapted these paintings without seeking Silvain’s approval. Silvain’s claims are backed by his observation that Ye had displayed and promoted 87 artworks over more than 25 years that mirrored his originals. Given the significant financial benefit Ye would have accrued from these, Silvain sought not only an end to this infringing behavior but also a compensation of 50 million yuan and a public apology.
The battle culminated in August when Silvain excitedly shared on social media platforms about the verdict from the Beijing Intellectual Property Court in his favor. The court’s directives included an immediate halt to Ye’s infringing activities, a public media apology, and compensation. While the amount was adjusted to 5 million yuan, it remained a substantial sum.
However, the tale doesn’t end here. Reports from Caixin Weekly indicate that Ye is far from accepting this decision. Contrary to the court’s judgment, Ye remains firm in his stance and has reportedly initiated the appeal process.
Reflecting on this ordeal, Silvain expressed gratitude towards the support he received from the Chinese public and media. He believes this incident, along with its verdict, will serve as a beacon for the future, setting a precedent for artistic integrity and rights. Silvain expressed, “The extensive backing I’ve witnessed underlines that the Chinese art realm is not only conscious of its ethical standing but is also equipping itself to uphold it.”
Further, he is optimistic about the changing scenario, citing his own experience as proof that the Chinese art market is becoming more receptive and trustworthy for international artists. In a heartening development, Silvain revealed that several museums within China have expressed enthusiasm for his work. With the aid of his Belgian agent and a local ally, he looks forward to several impending exhibitions in the country.
Silvain’s closing thoughts highlight his undying passion, “At the heart of it all, it’s the love for painting that keeps me going, commercial aspects have never been my focus.”