The Industrial Report of Oil Painting Reproduction in China

If you have some personal Asian artwork that you would like to sell, feel free to post it here, with images etc.
The story always starts: "My father/grandfather bought this in Japan/Korea just after the war..."
Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 8, 2008 3:19 am

The Industrial Report of Oil Painting Reproduction in China

Post by lewingcn » Mar 30, 2008 2:09 am

The Industrial Report of Oil Painting Reproduction in China in 2008 -- What Course to Follow?
Lewis Liu
Director of Crafts Gift AD Design & Web Hosting

A life without struggling is destined to be enmeshed in the cocoon, never being able to taste the summit feeling of breaking the cocoon and meanwhile the life will lost its meaning.
-- preface

Oil painting production is called “commercial painting” in the jargon of oil painting. The oil painting industry has a history of 20 years and it has always been in an embarrassing position since the end of 1980s when this industry rose from Guangdong and Fujian province of China . In the eyes of academic artists, they are considered as low-rank replica, not appealing to refined taste; in the eyes of common people, they are considered as art, enjoying its place in the palace of art (although it only affiliates to the ivory tower); in the eyes of painters of reproductions, they can bring profit and vanity that can satisfy the painters or they can make the painters embarrassed due to the difference between reproduction and pure art they are pursuing.
As far as the industry itself is concerned, the development from the original situation of low output and high profit to recent situation of high output and low profit and even to minimal profit in the saturated market gradually displays its feature as a labor-intensive industry containing certain techniques; and meanwhile it also displays a common feature among non high-tech industries and industries that needn’t to be invested much--the vicious competition of rushing into this industry.

Part 1 The Status Quo of Industry

In order to have a understanding of the true status quo of Chinese oil painting industry and make an exploration of the course that it should follow, the present writer made a thorough investigation of production, marketing and other main links in the Chinese oil painting industry and got a more incisive understanding of the status quo of the domestic oil painting industry.

1. Guangdong Trade Fair: the “Chicken Ribs” of Oil Painting Industry
“Chicken Ribs” comes from an ancient story in Chinese history. It means something does not have a bright future, however it is a pity to desert it.
In the Guangdong Trade Fair on Apr. 16th, the oil painting exhibition area was very deserted compared with other exhibition areas in the main hall, with only a few foreign purchasers, among whom were mainly Middle East merchants that were good at forcing down the price to an unbearable one.
The present writer saw the suppliers in most booths chatting and some younger staff chasing and laughing. Several suppliers even put their feet on the desks, daydreaming, which deserved to be a kind of “scenery”.
The booths in the main exhibition hall were a little bit luckier, sometimes with several purchasers looking around and negotiating. However, it could not be compared with other popular exhibition areas in the respects of the number of foreign buyers and the quantity of orders.
More and more people know that the Guangdong Trade Fair has another name--the “Chicken Ribs”, which has an especially profound meaning in the oil painting industry. Previously, the suppliers who took part in the Fair could bring back orders of various quantities. However, during the last two years, they invested more than 100 thousand RMB even 1 million in the Fair, but they depended on luck to decide whether they would get some orders, let alone orders of large quantities. Even 20 or 30 merchants could not necessarily get one large order according to the ratio.

2. Painting Village: As Clamorous as Before, but Quiet to Such an Extent
Painting village in Shenzhen. In theory, should have seen more foreign merchants now. However, it only welcomes 5 foreigners in total, divided into two groups, one group on each day.
On contrast, at this time in the previous years, even suppliers out of Guangzhou could receive many merchants from Guangdong Trade Fair; but this year saw no visiting of foreign merchants.

3. Two Oil Painting Streets in Xiamen : Desolate and Deserted
Xiamen , the same as Shenzhen oil painting village and Putian, is one of the three biggest oil painting industrial bases in China . In the last two years, Xiamen also helped to open up 2 Wushipu Oil Painting Street Oil Painting Streets. However, due to the rent and charge disobedience, the two streets which experienced shopkeepers’ strike have now been desolate and deserted, just like the shabby and rustic toys for the countryside children. Quite a lot of galleries close all day long. See picture 1.
Because of other local governments’ blindly following the trend, the newly opened oil painting industrial villages and streets are much more declining.

Part 2 Price: Who Will Be Hurt More in the Profitless Price Campaign?

conclusion from suppliers: most of them are too eager to make every sacrifice to get business done; some of them are struggling hard to maintain their business; few of them put a perfect end to their business by selling at a much lower price.

1. Order: Hard to Get Your Favor
Almost none of the suppliers will miss an order of 20,000 paintings. Despite two or three months’ great efforts and hard work, they can only gain the profit of a few RMBs for each painting.
Among over 50 suppliers the present writer visited, most of them just rent a small apartment as their company, with several employees and dozens of paintings in store, generally without registration at government. A small number of medium-sized oil painting companies usually own a studio with ten odds employees or thousands of paintings in store. These two types of suppliers show great interest in such kind of order.
For those few big suppliers, they have their own studio with at least 100 painters and a showroom over 300 square meters. Fujian TOPERFECT is among them, ( as you can see in picture 2. It locates its production base in Putian and its sales company in Xiamen. Big suppliers like this are the only ones who are drawing big buyers on.

2. “Zero Profit”: Hard Choice, Hard Journey
It was a decade ago that big factory was the major arena for oil painting production, but nowadays it is not the same case any more. Internet brings even tougher competition to those small industries like oil painting reproduction.

3. Vicious Competition: Suppliers Struggling on the Verge of Death
Most suppliers are struggling hard till wearing out their lives. Many of them who specialized in oil painting supply have become a trader of some unrelated products. For instance, some may sell shoes while at the same time selling oil painting on the same website. Even some change their trade for lack of hope.
When a supplier begins to attract his or her customers at the lowest price, others will follow. This can only lead to the vicious circle in the oil painting industry, for they are acting against the long term interest of the whole industry in which every supplier is part of it.

Part 3 Where Is Our Future?

In the case of malignant competition, every brainy operator should try to withdraw from the predicament of using lower priced to pleasing the purchasers, who, meanwhile, even are not aware where their future is. What they’d better to do is to consider the developing trend and to investigate the profound rules of the field.

As we are well informed that the price of goods is decided by the supply-demand status in the markets. In recent years, thousands of oil painting suppliers presented a kind of malignant competition by supplying too much over the demanded, which directly lowered the priced sharply. The sellers abroad are facing the same fierce situation as well. As an immediate result, a batch of suppliers and distributors are quitting the markets and, furthermore, the supply and demand will return to a balance point which will bring the price rising again, which, will last for some time. Those minority companies who could conform to the dramatic markets changes and survived by all means from the 1st shuffle in oil painting industry, will prove stronger than ever and definitely play a leading role in the field in future.

Without any substantive government controls on price floor for any industry, the tendency to minimize our profit has become irreversible. Therefore, we can only depend on ourselves to explore the future of the oil painting industry.
The vicious competition for the lowest price was started by those small suppliers who were originally pressed to and later used to lower the price. However, in market economy, an industry, without any demand for high-tech or much capital, nor any control over the price floor forced by government or industrial union and support for copyright protection, will definitely be caught in vicious competition.

In particular, regardless of the production scale, all suppliers share the same feature, that is, their paintings rank low in quality considering the cultural sense. Their products are actually Commercial Paintings named by academic group, which means the simple reproduction without any originality.
By the end of last century, Creative Industry and Creative Economy, a kind of new economic concept emerged in the background of global consumption, has exerted profound impact on oil painting reproduction industry by its emphasis on the originality of cultural and artistic value. By then, numerous foreign oil painting producers had already begun to make their own designs, and gained a big market share.

In 2007, paintings sold in the European and US market gained an even higher profit, for most of them are new designs in vogue in recent years, rather than the simple reproduction of famous works in the past. In the era of Creative industry, reproductions cannot meet the needs of the market.
Above all, only by establishing our own brand and designing innovatively in accordance with the market demands can we seize the initiative to price, whereas suppliers in China go on sacrificing the price to get business done. Thus, without a good profit, they have neither the intention nor the financial capability to make their own designs.

We can only rely on those few big suppliers to get rid of such vicious cycle. Big suppliers should look far ahead and aim high: in short term plan, they should invest more human and financial resources and draw on the strong points of other marginal industry to make their new designs; in long term plan, they should depend on their long accumulated artistic concept and expertise to develop marginal industry, like crafts, advertising design, etc, and thus constitute extensive resources for industry clusters, which will in turn provide more innovative designing concept, more capital and more customers, and thus make the industry itself a virtuous circulation.

What course should Chinese oil painting industry follow? The future of oil painting industry is in our hands!