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Paintings by animals

 
 
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  #1
Paintings by animals
Old 13-02-2008

Dear Folks,

I've just joined this forum after having done some previous research work and writing on changing zoo design, and the choreography of marine mammal shows in a previous research project. I'm an academic researcher--an anthropologist-- working on human/animal relations, especially in terms of visual issues.

I'd appreciate any help that the folks on this forum can give, as this group is obviously well informed and especially thoughtful about zoo issues.

Here is my question:

I'm researching the transnational art market for paintings by animals. These seem quite popular in the U.S. both as enrichment activities, especially for primates, and as fund raising tools, where the paintings are sold in gift shops or at galas. I got interested in this when I found out that three paintings by Congo the chimp (from the 1950s) sold in London for the equivalent of USD $30,000. Since then I've found out that many US zoos and sanctuaries, as well as individual pet owners, are producing and successfully selling art made by elephants, dolphins, horses, dogs, birds, and even turtles. The works by primates seem to bring the most money and attention...for example the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle is, this week, selling two paintings by an orangutan there on E-Bay, to raise money for the zoo.

Do you have any idea how widespread this practice of creating paintings by animals as part of enrichment is? (I think a lot of you are engaged with Australian zoos...)

What is your sense about why people buy these paintings? Are they merely happy to support zoo or conservation efforts? do they think that primates are especially close to "us" in their abilities, and thus see the paintings as evidence of a sort of origin of human aesthetics?

What about the other species that paint in zoos? (rhinocerous? sea lions, parrots? elephants?) What do you think the general public thinks is going on there? Are these products merely unusual artifacts? Do they think the rhinocerous is making aesthetic judgments? Or the sea lion? Maybe the elephant? The primates?

I'd appreciate your thoughts on these issues...especially why people want to buy these paintings and what difference it makes which species is producing them...

Thanks so much for your thoughts.

Mocha
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  #2
Old 13-02-2008

off my head id'e say this....

i think it looses its punch when you start talking dogs and turtles. people probably like to think that the animals somehow not only knows what they are doing and have a self-awareness that they are in control, but also make decisions based on their own artistic esthetics.

now, regardless of whether or not this is true, i expect people like to think it is and thus the whole concept its somewhat undermined when you start offering art by species that are not generally considered by the public as being "hyper-intelligent".

ask anyone what the smartest animals are and they will no doubt mention the great apes as well as elephants and dolphins. maybe if your lucky, a monkey or parrot.

but a turtle? now thats pushing it.....
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  #3
Old 13-02-2008

dip a turtle in paint and get it to walk across a canvas, turtle painting done!
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  #4
Old 13-02-2008

Hi Mocha

I am a researcher who wants to raise money for my subjects by their art, but I am looking outside of the traditional art to find something unique. I think people buy it because it is a tangible connection to an animal they may never see up close. Also, it is a unique piece of art, because the number of animals doing it is far less than humans. The raising money for conservation/direct benefit to that animal also is a factor.

Feel free to pm me if you want more info on what I am doing.
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  #5
Old 13-02-2008

G'day Mocha,

The animals at Auckland Zoo which have produced paintings (that I know of) are the Asian Elephants and the Chimpanzees (when the zoo still had a troop), possibly the Orangutans too...

The Elephant paintings ar larger and more expensive and have frames with colourful borders. I was considering getting my grilfriend one for Christmas two years but they price was put up from $500 to $700 (approximately)...

The Chimpanzee ones are much smaller (A4ish) and have information about the individual that painted them in a simple frame, they are around $300...

Why did I almost buy that one for mi lady..?

Well because we both love the zoo and the animals... Having the painting on the wall would not only be aesthetically pleasing but would also remind us of our favourite place and let face it when friends came over to say, "guess who painted that!"...

Personally I wouldn't buy a painting thats proceeds were not going to conservation and that wasn't done by an animal that could not (potentially) recognise that it represents something, i.e. as likely Elephants, Great Apes and some Cetacens can...
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  #6
Old 14-02-2008

I think that many people are interested in raising money for conservation and will thus buy a painting done by an animal. I personally have no illusions that the Christmas ornament that I have "painted" by a rhinoceros at the Cincinnati Zoo is a work of art. The novelty of having that on the tree, explaining it to my grandchildren and by the way mentioning the plight of rhinos in the wild makes it valuable. The same goes for most animal art--it's a way to both rais awareness and also raise some cash for conservation or the individual institution.
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  #7
Old 19-02-2008

Thanks everyone for your thoughts on the "art by animals" issue...

The dividing line between primates and non-primates as the artists seems important, as well as the contribution to conservation.

Does anyone know of art gallery shows of these works in your area? I'd found out about some in Iowa, Virginia, and florida, all held at coffee house galleries and again, all explicitly raising funds for conservation...anything like that going on in the areas you work in?

Thanks again,
Mocha
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  #8
Old 19-02-2008

I don't know of any in Auckland (apart from the zoo of course)...
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  #9
Old 20-02-2008

There was a painting pig in the metro today. I think he was from Virginia, USA.
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  #10
Old 20-02-2008

Chris, can you give any more details? Was he with a human and they were selling the paintings to raise money like street musicians might do?
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  #11
Old 21-02-2008

The money from the paintings were going to charity.
As for being in the Metro, I meant the Metro newspaper, which is a free newspaper you get on buses over here. It was a bit silly of me not to explain that better. Sorry!
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  #12
Old 09-03-2008

You may find this interesting Mocha:

http://thatvideosite.com/video/6242
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  #13
Paintings by animals/ elephants painting in Thailand
Old 10-03-2008

Thank you NZ Jeremy! I'd seen still pictures but never a video of the actual process of how these Thai elephants paint...I think these are at the Asian Art conservation project in Thailand that is sponsored by the U.S.-based performance artists Komar and Melamid.

since I just took a one-day workshop in Chinese brush painting yesterday, my eyes were drawn to the style of the painting, not just the training that it must have taken to get the elephants to do each stroke...some of the elephant works with trees and flowers and leaves seem--to my untrained eye-- to share some similar aesthetics with brush painting, in the sense of a representational style that is highly codified with techniques for producing these types of floral forms, but always subject to individual interpretation by each artist/producer. Makes me wonder who decided what and how the elephants would paint... I'll have to look into that.

thanks for sending this,

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  #14
Old 11-03-2008

I have a capuchin that likes to scribble. Out of my small troop of 5 he is the only one who showed any interst. We have some one coming next week to take some pics and he is going to see if anyone will buy the finished artwork, we hope it may rasie some funds but we only do it as a form of enrichment really. He doesn't do it on command and he does only scribble, keeps him busy though.
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  #15
Scribbling Capuchins and the art world
Old 11-03-2008

Thanks Trigger!

It is so intriguing that just one of your capuchins does the scribbling...I've read about some apes drawing (scribbling) in the dirt in the wild...not sure what is going on there...

Jungle Friends, a monkey rescue sanctuary in Florida offers notecards with paintings by monkeys as a way to raise money...they include a photo and a brief bio of the monkey's life before arriving in the sanctuary (many are retired from labs). Their website might offer some ideas as far as marketing these capuchin "drawings."

Can you tell me a bit more about how this started...did he or she just pick up one of your pencils one day and start making marks?It would be great if you could send a couple photos after your friend takes them...

many thanks,
Mocha
 


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