Belgian painter wins plagiarism case in China

Belgian painter wins plagiarism case in China
A side-by-side of Silvain and Yongqing's work. Credit: Weibo

Belgian painter Christian Silvain has won a plagiarism lawsuit in China, Het Nieuwsblad reports on Friday. A Beijing court ordered artist Ye Yongqing to pay €650,000 in damages.

The court concluded that Ye Yongqing had built a thriving career by plagiarising the works of Silvain. Yongqing's works had sold for up to €600,000 at auction in China. In total, the Chinese artist plagiarised 87 different works of art by Silvain.

Yongqing first discovered the Belgian artist's work during an exhibition in Paris in the 1990s. There, he obtained a catalogue which he began to copy, but it was not until early 2019 that his career of plagiarism began to unravel. CCP-run newspaper China Daily began to circulate his artwork, calculating that Yongqing had grossed nearly $15 million (€13.8 million).

The Beijing court ordered Yongqing to pay €650,000 in damages to Silvain and make a public apology in the media. This final settlement is far lower than what his lawyers had previously hoped for. Silvain's lawyers first asked the judge to seize Yongqing's villa, which was estimated at up to €2.55 million.

Silvain told Het Laatste Nieuws in 2020 that he was not in the lawsuit for money and that he would use the funds to cover his legal fees and to donate to young artists in China.

In Silvain's 50 years as an artist, he has taken part in no fewer than 450 exhibitions at galleries across the world. His works are displayed in 70 museums globally.

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