Paris Street Painters Lose to Cheap Chinese Paintings

Painters working on the streets of Montmartre in Paris may soon become a thing of the past with the introduction of cheap, soulless Chinese paintings done by the painters equivalent of a battery hen in a small steal cage.

Many of the 300 officially registered artists working on the streets are now competing with souvenir shops selling mass produced Chinese oil paintings for a fraction of the cost that local Paris artists can afford to sell them for.

David Chazan wrote some more on this topic at the BBC here.. “When I visit some of the souvenir shops and question the owners about the origin of their pictures, at first they deny that they are imported. But after a few minutes, some admit that they do buy imported pictures or prints – and even touch them up themselves.” Continue Reading..

My first opinion would usually be to let the fittest survive, but not in this case. Mass produced Chinese oil paintings are anti-art and any artist or art lover that supports them should hang their head in shame. Go buy an art poster if you must, but don’t encourage the abuse of featherless battery hens that pop out countless empty blobs of colored mud parading as art.

If the uncreative junk that they turn out day after day isn’t enough to change your mind, think of the working contemporary artists around the world that constantly have their images stolen by battery artists in China. Van Gogh may not mind having his sunflowers ripped off and reproduced thousands of times each year, but emerging and mid-career artists probably Do mind.

On a somewhat related note, this week I have tried to buy some shorts and shirts without a “Made in China” label on them and have been unsuccessful. I will keep trying, but at some point I have to buy clothes, which will mean that I will have to submit to buying products from the world’s mega-factory (a factory that is hungry for coal fired power plants and has little time for silly things like an ecosystem).

End rant on China here. ;-)

Phew, sorry you had to hear that.

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Take a sewing class!!! T shirts and shorts are not difficult…then when you’ve got the bug, try quilts.

    I enjoy your blog!!

  2. I have posted a story on our blog talking about the same problem;

  3. Anonymous says:

    Not sure I can call any of these people artists. Painters yes, but they are al over, certainly not just Paris. That is just part of theeh myth, the romance, the marketing, of gay Paris.

    Painters like this have shops everywhere, many small towns along the California coast have tiny shops with such things for sale, and of course, the great chain of that illuminous Painter of Light. His are actually photo emulsion stretched over digitally mapped and created canvses with brush strokes asnd texture underneat. Created in China, from the Masters grand design.

    So i agree, buy a poster. You can always get a Matisse of Miro for cheap, the framing costs more. Or photography, hell, I can sell mine for cheaper than they can, just a little too intense for most. oh well.

    art collegia delenda est

  4. I’m becoming very cynical these days. I must say that what the Chinese paint shops do is not that much different than what some ‘notable’ artists are doing with their assistants. The only difference is that the China shops don’t have a brand name attached to their work.

  5. Donald Frazell says:

    I am getting less cynical, a new approach to art is upon us, will we take it? The old was boring, silly, childish adn irresponsible. That being gone is a good thing, lets celebrate!

    But now is time for constructive self criticsm, a lsot art itself it seems, and re examiniation of all of art, since teh beginning of time, discovering what is good and true, and adapting it to the times we live in. What could be better than that? Lets get to work, and discover life again, not the games and siliness of the past. Time to grow up. And work.

    art collegia delenda est

  6. Donald Frazell says:

    It is a time of purification. As Cezanne said, artists are a priesthood. The lies adn selfishness of the past decades msut be wrung out of us. Art is not about me, but US, self expression is for babies, and therapy, NOT art. The salesmanship and careerism of the Acadamies msut be tossed aside, as yesterdays news, as it is.

    Art is NEEDED, now, step up to the plate, get er done, use all the sports epithets, jsut do it!

    This is a huge opportunity to redine humanity. As Obama is attempting to do. Fundamentals msut be returned to their place of priority, as the foundations upon which to build. This media frenzy of silliness is NOT art, its art academy masters thesis’ gone amuk.

    There is never much art, but does come in clusters when society and a reevluation of who we are comes upon us. We have been in stagnant times, NOW things are moving, get on board, explore, experiment not for show, not for career, not for something “new”, but for Truth. It is starved for now.
    Lets get to work, and leave the framed wallpaper to the Chinese sweatr shops.

    art collegia delenda est

  7. wow, i can’t believe you people. that article and your comments are pretty vile.

    cezanne was a jerk; “artists are a priesthood.” what a load of rubbish. if the 60s up to present should have taught us anything it’s that artists are just people, anyone can make art and the idea of artists as an elitist force in society is degrading to everyone and isolating.

    why is it so much better to buy a poster than a painting, if such things are relevant any longer, when they are both mass manufactured products for simple decoration?

    and why punish workers trying to make an honest salary for the perils of their government? if you don’t understand the ugliness in such statements then you need to rethink your global citizenship. if your target is the policies of the chinese government then pursue it and not the nation’s citizens. if your target is the chinese people then you’re a racist, a nationalist or worse.

    please descend from your high horse before someone hobbles your beast. your rhetoric is ugly and moving in the wrong direction. if you don’t change your attitude of aggression from attacking those who deserve better then you’re not just part of the problem; you are the problem.

  8. ArtofMulata, if you want to support slavery and the destruction of our our planet, good for you, but I don’t see why I’m a racist or nationalist if I don’t support neither.

    I think you need to look a little closer at China. I have never heard of a battery hen earning an “honest salary.”

    I criticize all races equally, including my own and yours, so to be thought of as racist offends me as I have issues with all groups of people. Black, white, yellow or brown, if youre asleep at the wheel, I probably have an issue with you.

    Having said all that, I don’t lose any sleep at night worrying about what a retarded species we have become. All you can do is live your own life.

    And I like the view from my high horse, so I might just remain on it thanks. I’ll remind my horse to look out for cry baby hobblers

  9. Wonder for how long though as it seems Dafen is in trouble too. If it isn’t cheap chinese copies, it is something else from somewhere else, or mass produced stuff from someone like kincaide.

    Painters have always had trouble like this, even in Hogarths day.

    oh well!!!!!

  10. Before you criticise the Chinese sweat shops, I’d take a moment to go to montmartre and check out the ‘artists’ you’re defending. Many of them sell cheap knockoffs, inkjet printouts and the most lifeless of lifelesly mundane shit.
    They’re preying on the gullability of tourists, which in my mind doesn’t put them above sweatshop copy artists.

  11. Anyone that buys art while on holiday deserves what they get Michael. Any art that I have bought on holiday has either been thrown out or is hiding in the shed.

    Im not arguing that Paris street painters should be hanging in more museums.

  12. Here’s the thing though, they are all doing the same thing, competing for tourist money. While I understand how galling it is (having seen a local biz buy imported stuff so he could be included in the art stroll and hence snubbed all the local produced quality art) its the name of the game. Either people want quality work and go to the artists who produce it or they are tourists/impulse shoppers who buy an image (no matter how it is produced or by who).

  13. It not just the Chineese that are doing this rip off art. I came across a tin of sardines from portugal being exhibited in my local supermarket. If thats not a rip off of poor Damien Hirst I don’t know what is. Just changing the glass for tin and the sharks for sardines… it’s an absolute outrage! And what about that spaniard bloke called Picasso? His bull on glass is a total rip off from a painting in cave done by a French man ( well Gaulish neandathal actually). And as for that Jackson Pollack i was painting like a talantless smack head long before he copied the idea!!! Bloody outraged I am!!!

    Well it is quite fun and theraputic to let some steam off through the key board. Thank you for the oppourtunity to share my ravings with a fellow brain storm sufferer.

  14. shit earl I saw those cans in my local store too, flippin eck!

  15. Donald Frazell says:

    Dion! Dont prove that silly party girl mulata to be right! You gotta spread the blame around, the article states much of the “art” in Paris is from Eastern Europe too, though you know the Chinese have perfected the human powered version of Fords assembly line, they got lots of spare parts to replace when they wear out too. And you know there is some Brit or American middle man in there somewhere taking his cut of the dough, maybe Kincaide himself, he has the Chinese connections. Though I just read in a christian sports magazine that Kincaid is a great artist, and devout family man. Or was that devout marketing machine?

    Poor lil mulata, why when she is one white as hell girl she would be a mulata, I am the swirl making one here, my boy as white as Obama, she could be a mulata is beyond me. Rather self absorbed, and delusional more like it. And no, my sweet young party girl, the art “scene” is not creative, it is a leech that lives of others, parties all the time, and really doesnt work for anything, too much effort I guess.

    And by the way, Osama did have a little to do with 9/11, its Iraq and that other Hussein, not Obama, that had nothing to do with it. By the way, Hussein is arabic for pretty boy LOL!
    Children, What you gonna do with em? Make em work and pay their own damn bills, instead of jetting off to party at art scenes in other countries. is what. If you hadnt noticed, there is a Depression going on, how about volunteering and helping others as much as you attempt to validate your meaningless lifestyle?

    And yes, Cezanne was a jerk, and crazy as hell. But practically worshipped by your boy van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, Matisse, Klee all early moderns who understod the langauge he created, the incredible ballance and interweaving of all arts true concerns, Humanity, Nature, and God? What does Contemp art parties have to do with any of that? Angry young thing, arente we? Thats what happens when you live a meaningless existence, and get called on it. Dont worry, denial is the first step, only what, 6 or 11 steps more, all these healing step proccesses confuse me.

    By the way, I really like Elizabeth Barton’s work, great idea! And execution, just might buy one myself. Sorta a early modern notif, Delauney or Klee like, but very personal and stylish. This is a great way to use learned and talented creativity.

    You go girl! Should be selling on the streets of gay Paris! Keep lovers warm on those cold damp nights, with a glass of wine and taste of brie. Visiting great museums and human historical culture is a artsits job, though I ahve neever gotten over the pon myself. Too busy raising and mentoring kids, and paying the bills. Have not had a job for only three weeks since I was 21, some of us do contribute to society, and pay taxes, ya know.

    art collegia delenda est

    art collegia delenda est

  16. Very sad. Soulless times. But that will change. I hope.

  17. It seems it’s all down to ecomomics i.e. money. These art factories pump out paintings faster than the artist on the street can and they can produce it for less which means their paintings can be sold for less while still making a profit for the seller. It’s always about money. The same goes for T-shirts and the like.

    Choices. Everybody can choose. So, the next time you are walking along the Seine, you might be able to choose between the Chinese factory painting of the Eiffel Tower for 10 euro or the Eiffel Tower painting that has just been completed by the French artist for 20 euro. I’d say for a great many people, quality most likely doesn’t play the biggest role in choice, but, rather, price. And, if it is art to the person that likes it, then it is ‘art’ regardless of who made it and where it was made.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Funny that chick is questioning your values when she brags on her blog about going to Korea to wine and dine. I guess in her mind you are racist because you pointed out a shoddy market that devalues art but it is ok for her to experience bliss in a country that is in turmoil. I also read that she supported Obama but now thinks he is the face of the new enemy. Some people just want something to rebel about. If everything were free and all bellies were full she would still rant about not having enough spice for her rum.

  19. I agree about the choices Matt and I think artists have choices also. What I would wonder is how different are the paintings of the chinese artists to the French Street Artists. They are all competing for tourists sales using the same images over and over again?
    Dion you got any comparison pics?

    I think it a shame that local stores don’t support local arts, but then the tourist stores are also competing for tourist money. So I wonder if I should feel any pity when they are all really just feeding into a art as product machine.

  20. Top post ANB

    China’s doing it with every other manufacturing market – including fine art – so it doesn’t surprise me that it’s flooding even the schlocko tourist art market.

    The idea is to drive down the prices until the ‘competition’ goes out of business and then monopolise and dominate. It’s really about who’s biggest and greediest – there is no ‘competition’ here since the winner is a foregone conclusion. And this is true of the whole corrupt sham that is the global ‘free’ market. There’s nothing ‘free’ about the trading – there’s nothing to trade but freedom.

  21. Corrine, I don’t have comparison paintings. I also havent been to Montmarte, but my guess is theyre not doing masterpieces on the streets.

    I’m more Against China than I am For Paris street painters. I’m just so sick of everything being made in China and seeing them move into mass produced painting bothers me a little. So I’ll criticise them every chance I can.

    The Chinese spammer that has regularly hit my blog with comment spam hasnt helped my dislike of Chinese oil painting factories either.

  22. I just find it difficult to feel much pity though, not sure why! Everything made in china, including art, can only happen because we (the general we) cater to it, crave cheap goods and want, want and want. I think my contempt is more for those who cater to it than china itself.

  23. It’s probably where I should place my contempt too (with those that fuel the dragon), but I guess it’s easier for me to poke a stick at a foreign enemy, rather than those around me that are really creating the problem.

    I don’t know how bad it is in the states, but here in aus it is so much more difficult to chose anything other than Chinese made goods, especially clothes!

  24. How many people on this blog have refrained from buying Chinese made goods in the other aspects of their lives?

    Although I disagree with it, China is merely supplying a demand, so is it right to criticize only them?

  25. Donald Frazell says:

    Criticizing is one thing, legislating another. If folks wanna boycott something, its their right. Gorvernment putting on tarriffs and such undermines the economy, and what led to the Great Depression, we are in just a runa of the mill variety right now, like in the 1800s

    Personally, I boycott WalMart, because their quality sucks. Target will do when i need to. but Costco even better. we all gotta save, and should not matter from where. However, alot of their crap, at a much higher percentage, IS crap. But if good stuff for a fair price, buy it. I aint buyin no Chrysler, thats for sure. My GMC Jimmy was great, but stickin to my Japanese Camry for now, Its not racial or gingoism, well, for some it is, but about the lowering of quality. That is a problem.

    But third world econmies do ahve to go through a tough process to modernize, adn usually by using their only resource, cheap manpower. China is particularly good at it , and “blessed” with it in an abundance. They are going through tough times just like us, well, far worse actully. Dropping a few rungs on the economic ladder puts you in the ground, not jsut a smaller apartment.

  26. The point made here by others regarding the inevitability of this tourist trade is spot on. Those who like to know the person behind the work of art and do a little investigation will keep the true artists afloat. By true artists, I mean those that put a little thought into the work. I can’t see the Chinese inviting collectors into their sweatshops anytime soon. It’s sad to lose that portion of the potential “tourist” sale, but I sleep better at night knowing I at least try to inject some love and life into my work. Let the soulless do what they want.

  27. Why is mass produced chinese chintz anti-art and the paris street painters not? They are producing the same image over and over again too, are they not? Even if they are of different things, they are the same image, just as every kid in an academy makes the same drawing. Or Jeff Koons?

    I don’t neccesarily disagree with you that the chinese are making anti-art, i would just say that the french painters might mostly be making anti-art as well, just as shepard fairey is making anti-art (There are no two ways around it, his image is propaganda) and what the art world seems to support almost exclusively is various types of anti-art, with a few exceptions like Anselm Kiefer, who has managed to convince the world, perhaps even himself that he is a conceptual artist.

    (Personally i think someone like lucien freud is even anti-art, never has a figure painter who has achieved fame painted figures so devoid of life, they aren’t dead, they aren’t even zombies, that would imply they had once been full of life, they are as if jeff koons decided to make a figure instead of a balloon animals and put him in a room, they are scarecrows. John Currin most certainly, etc . . .)

    The point being, even if you disagree on lucien freud, there are so many types of anti-art, It seems silly to focus on just one.

  28. I’m not defending Paris street painters as I have never been to Paris and tourist art generally makes me want to vomit.

    A lot of contemporary art probably is anti-art but cheap Chinese painters take it to a whole other level. Theyre not just ripping off dead old masters, theyre also ripping off working artists that are trying to make a living from art.

    And I’ll never understand how anyone could say a bad word about the living master (Lucian Freud). The man is a genius.

    Also, Kiefer himself says he is a bad painter, but if he didnt paint I wouldnt be interested in his concrete constructions and conceptual ramblings.

  29. I read that some American Businessman is also do art at a mass scale. Wanting his workers to produce 20 paintings a day and he sells his art to hotels, etc. What a shame to want to take out the quality of enjoying painting. Why does it have to be rushed just for the almighty dollar. I am a budding artist and I hope that I will be able do sell some of it someday.

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