Russian artist behind leopard cat designs arrives in Taiwan

Russian artist who created leopard cat designs for TRA train arrives in Taiwan


Molodtsova. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The Russian designer whose artwork had been allegedly plagiarized arrived in Taiwan today (Sept. 17) after accepting an official invitation by the government to thank her for donating her leopard cat (石虎) designs for use in Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) trains.

The artist, Katya Molodtsova, arrived at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport early this morning, reported CNA. She was greeted by staff from Taiwan's Tourism Bureau and reportedly taken aback by the throngs of reporters awaiting her arrival.

On Wednesday, she will attend the opening ceremony for the decorated train and visit an elementary school. The bureau will then take the Russian artist on a tour of scenic spots in Taiwan, such as Sun Moon Lake, Rainbow Village, Astoria Cafe, Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, the north and northeast coasts, and sites in Yilan County.

Molodtsova arriving at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. (CNA image)

The controversy started when images of "leopard cats" were placed inside trains running the Jiji Line (集集線) between Changhua and Nantou counties as part of a project jointly sponsored by the Tourism Bureau and Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA). The designs were soon blasted for looking more like a leopard than a Taiwanese leopard cat, reported CNA.

Some netizens contacted Chiang Meng-chih (江孟芝), the Taiwanese designer behind the project, on social media about the discrepancy. Chiang initially replied that she had just simplified the characteristics of the leopard cat and that the result was that it happened to look more like a leopard.

However, other netizens noticed identical clipart on the paid stock image site Shutterstock. They traced the artwork to Molodtsova, who confirmed that the creatures were indeed leopards and not leopard cats.

Molodtsova being welcomed by Tourism Bureau official at airport. (CNA photo)

Chiang was then criticized for allegedly plagiarizing Molodtsova's illustrations of leopards. Chiang later admitted the image was bought from Shutterstock but denied allegations that she was a copycat, wrote the China Times.

On Aug. 27, Molodtsova posted three new designs of leopard cats on her Instagram page and wrote, "I made these illustrations in support for the endangered leopard cat of Taiwan. Huge thanks for all your kind messages on here and Facebook!" The Facebook page JumpStray shared Molodtsova's new illustrations and wrote that she had learned that Taiwan's leopard cat is facing a survival crisis and stood with the Taiwanese people in protecting it.

The group added that Molodtsova has said the drawings are for Taiwanese and conservation groups to use at no charge. She said that they were welcome to share them and offered her utmost support.

(Leopard cat illustration by Molodtsova)

However, the Tourism Bureau said that it had already completed three revised designs and preferred to use its own versions, reported CNA.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), on the evening of Aug. 27 criticized the Tourism Bureau on his Facebook page for refusing to take Molodtsova's design into consideration. He called on the bureau to "take back" its statement about rejecting her design.

Lin then left a message on Molodtsova's Instagram account thanking her for her help in providing a creative new design for the leopard cat. He then invited her to visit Taiwan, "a wonderful island full of cultural and bio-diversities."

(Leopard cat illustration by Molodtsova)

On Aug. 29, Molodtsova visited Taiwan's representative office in Moscow, Russia. On a Facebook post released that evening, the office thanked her for her "heartwarming move to illustrate a leopard cat design for Taiwan," and announced that she had officially accepted Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung's (林佳龍) invitation to visit Taiwan in late-September.

(Leopard cat illustration by Molodtsova)