Dec 052014

The Replica Paintings and artists of Koh Samui Thailand

The Joker with his piercing eyes stares at me sending a chill down my spine, I look away to find The Godfather giving an ear to one of his Consigliere. Only when I find the Buddha in his infinite wisdom smiling benignly I regain my composure, slowly moving my gaze to the New York skyline in Koh Samui.

The Joker Portrait

The Joker looked at me with his piercing eyes

No ladies and gentlemen I was not on a set in Hollywood but in the tropical paradise island Koh Samui in Amazing Thailand and walking the eclectic Chaweng Beach Road, the most happening road in Koh Samui.

The Godfather Marlon Brando Replica Painting

The Godfather listens to his Consigliere

The bad guys of Hollywood were staring at me from replica paintings made by artists of Koh Samui who have mastered the art of making replicas, so much that it reminded me of the movie The Freshman.

“The Freshman”, released in 1990 is not one of the well-known crime dramas where Marlon Brando looked at you with those piercing eyes. But the movie has a unique plot and here Brando parodies his famous portrayal of The Godfather. So we have Brando is playing a crime Godfather in the movie, who looks like the Godfather from another original The Godfather movie. But as per the plot, the movie portrayal of Brando in The Godfather was based on this Godfather in The Freshman known as Carmine Sabatini. The Godfather Sabatini has a painting of Mona Lisa hanging in his home, that according to his daughter, played by the charming Penelope Ann Miller is the original Mona Lisa and the one displayed in The Louvre, Paris is the replica. I am not sure if Ms. Sabatini shopped in Koh Samui or curators of The Louvre. My money is on The Louvre, for who will take panga with The Godfather??

Got it? Don’t worry neither did I.

Koh Samui is a hub of replica paintings and in the middle of restaurants serving best of Sea Food, massage parlours offering to take all your body aches and, tattoo parlors giving you some pain for getting inked you have all these art galleries where artists diligently work on recreating masterpieces that will set you back by a few million USD. But thank god for these artists you can buy replicas for a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars depending on your bargaining skills and how delicate the work in the original is. So while a delicate work by Raphael, Michael Angelo, or Angelico may set you back by three to 10000 dollars, you can get your own portrait done in only a few hundred dollars.  But whatever you choose to buy it will be worth it and will absolutely make your living room stand out.

But remember these artists are not making forgery because a forger passes his duplicate as original and charges you a king’s ransom. The artists of Koh Samui are genuine artists who are making replicas and selling them as replicas without trying to tell you otherwise.

These artists are not only making masterpieces from Dali, Picasso, Van Gogh and Monet they have gone a step further and reworked on movie posters of famous characters like The Godfather and Joker from the Batman series. The lovable bad guys of Hollywood seem to be good for the business. Equally popular is the modern Monalisa, clicked by the soul collector Steve McCurry better known as the Afghan Girl aka Sharbat Gula (her real name) in her torn shroud and sea green eyes.

I don’t remember who but somebody rightly said “the true measure of  great art is when it becomes so popular that it is sold on the streets as replica and takes its rightful place in folklore and street art”. In case no claim comes for this quote I will assign it to myself.

The Afghan Girl by Steve McCurry

The Afghan Girl by Steve McCurry looked at me with her sea green eye, while the other was hidden behind a cute baby

You can see the artists working silently in most of the art galleries on their next masterpiece and realize they may be making replica but it is not an easy task, for now, you do not have artistic freedom to do your own thing, instead you need to adhere to the nuances of color, texture, lighting, expressions and scale of the original as close as humanly possible. Click the thumbnails below to see the pictures.

I browsed through paintings of Buddha, cute babies, New York Skyline, Wat Arun, beaches of Koh Samui, various famous paintings of western masters from the Renaissance to modern times, and movie stars jostling for space with portraits commissioned by tourists.

But my favorite among all of them is this unique painting of the famous Tuk Tuks of Thailand; I am not sure if this is because it looked like an original, or because the Tuk Tuks look so similar to our desi Auto Rickshaws.  I hope you remember my post on Elephant Parade which has a cute baby Elephant shaped Tuk Tuk.

Tips on buying replica paintings in Thailand:

  • Go during the day so that you can compare the colors etc. in natural light.
  • Keep in mind what you want to buy from the existing stock or you want to commission a unique personal work of art. The price will depend on the same and a commissioned work of art will be more costly and will take time to be ready.
  • You can also commission your own portrait or portrait of a family member just by giving a printout or soft copy of the picture to the artist and they will make a portrait of the same as per the size decided by you. Most galleries will ship your painting anywhere in the world for an additional fee.
  • Some bargaining is in order, but don’t bargain too much as these artists don’t make much money as they complete only a few paintings per month, and the proceeds are shared between the artist and gallery owner.
  • So what painting you want to buy on your next visit to Thailand?
  • Note: Most galleries discourage taking pictures, so please respect that, I requested them to allow me to click pictures and only then clicked them using my Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Phone

I was invited by TAT New Delhi for the trip, and I had a great time in Amazing Thailand

More posts in Thailand Series:  Koh Samui Airport in A Resort,  Visa On Arrival in Thailand Checklist, Anantara Riverside Resort, Bangkok

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  42 Responses to “Replica Paintings Thailand : Buy the master pieces in Koh Samui”

Comments (42)
  1. Having a geekgasm right now! The joker was just superb and the other paintings as well.

  2. How fascinating! They are very talented artists and I wonder why they are focusing on replicas instead of creating their own original art. At least, the good thing is that they are not passing them off as the real deal. But what about the people who buy them? Hmm mmm

  3. I have not heard of Koh Samui before. Very interesting that there is a place that is actually known for this kind of art. You say do not bargain too much, but please give us an idea. About how much money are we talking about here? Like for that Joker painting? Or the Godfather one? Are these in oil on canvas? – Fred

    • Hi Fred: They make paintings on various mediums like paper, canvas etc. and are willing to make as per your specifications also. The price range I checked started from about 150 USD for small frames and went to a few thousand dollars for really intricate works of European masters…

  4. Great painting… Looks very artistically nice! Superb!!! I like it!

  5. The replicas are actually pretty good! Sure, more original work would be appreciated but if this helps gain popularity, why not?

  6. Ooh that’s a really good art over there! Another reason to love more Thailand 😉 Thank’s for sharing!

  7. These paintings would indeed brighten up any room. It always great to discover new things about a place and you have definitely shown me Thailand’s artistic side 🙂

  8. The paintings are very beautiful. I especially like The Godfather painting.

  9. This is very interesting. It’s something that I’d want to see and probably buy when I go on a trip to Thailand. And, I don’t think I’d haggle. It’s already a replica so there might not be a need for haggling anymore

  10. So does it mean that those who do replica’s especially painting replicas has legal authorization from real painters to produce such? I’m just confused because aren’t artworks copyrighted?

    • I am not sure how the copyright for replicas work, but as for as artist permission is concerned some of the original great masters from Renaissance era died a few hundred years ago…..

  11. I love paintings and every time I travel I make sure I buy small paintings. I normally like landscapes and images about the culture of the country. This is very interesting and i am sure there is always a demand for something like this.

  12. not really a fan of paintings, never really understood the concpt behind them, but very informative post!

  13. I love paintings and pictures but joker will take me to the darkness of my mind. Scary at night…

  14. I hope I get to visit this place in Thailand one day. I also copy other works to practice on my watercolor art. But if I sell paintings one day (hopefully!), they will be original paintings. -katrina centeno

  15. Thanks for sharing. I’m not a fans of painting therefore unlikely to buy any paint.

  16. I never thought they have this in Thailand! Thanks for this travel tip!

  17. Thanks for sharing about Koh Samui. i always know it as a place where many yogi goes for yoga retreats and learn yoga. Now, there’s more to the place!

  18. Wow! These replica artists are amazing! Too bad I wasn’t able to include Koh Samui in my itinerary when I visited Thailand. I saw these works of charcoal artists, also in Thailand but I don’t remember where exactly anymore, and they’re equally amazing, too. The portraits look almost real.

  19. These paintings look so nice! I haven’t been to Thailand yet, but I’ll definitely be checking out replica paintings when I find myself in Koh Samui. Apart from enjoying good Thai food, I’m also into paintings! 🙂

  20. Sounds like such a unique experience!

  21. As you said the essence of Joker’s eyes is so captured in the paintings…
    It is because of artist’s like theses that even we can have the replica of painting we love and it is not wrong when they say it is replica!

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