Is This Art?

Pierre Brassau burst upon the art world at a Swedish art show in 1964. The critics were nearly unanimous in their glowing reviews.

Newspaper art critic, Rolf Anderberg gushed over the paintings of the unknown French artist. He wrote, “Pierre Brassau paints with powerful strokes, but also with clear determination. His brush strokes twist with furious fastidiousness. Pierre is an artist who performs with the delicacy of a ballet dancer.”

Amidst a sea of praise for Brassau’s four paintings, there was only one dissenter who unknowingly hit the nail on the head. “Only an ape could have done this,” said the art critic.

Pierre Brassau’s real identity was a West African chimpanzee named Peter who lived in a Swedish zoo. Brassau was the creation of a tabloid journalist named Åke “Dacke” Axelsson.

Axelsson wanted to see if the art world could tell the difference between modern art and the work of a chimp. He persuaded a local zookeeper to let Peter, the chimp play with paints. Apparently Peter ate more paint than he actually painted with, but he did produce a number of paintings that Axelsson sent to the art show.

With the exception of that one critic, the art world was thoroughly fooled. Brassau’s biggest fan, writer Rolf Anderberg wasn’t deterred though. Sticking to his guns, he said, it “was still the best painting in the exhibition.”

Peter isn’t the only animal artist to make waves in the art world. In the 1950’s another chimp artist also made a name for himself in England. At the age of 2, Congo the chimp took an interest in painting and produced over 400 works of art. While you might think that the work of a chimp would be a random mess, Congo was said to have a sense of composition, symmetry, balance and color.

Congo died in 1964 but not before obtaining some success. Pablo Picasso was said to be a fan and had one of Congo’s paintings hanging in his studio. In 2005, three of Congo’s paintings were put up for auction alongside the paintings of Warhol and Renoir. While the Renoir and Warhol works went unsold, Congo’s paintings sold for $26,620.

What do you think? Can animals create art? Click the link to see if you can tell the difference between art made by a human and art made by a chimp.

The post Is This Art? appeared first on Deep English.

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