Eye of the Beholder
News sources are buzzing about a 7 year-old just sold his collection of paintings for over $200,000. Kudos to the kid, but I’m more impressed when animals sell their art.
The most talented seem to be chimps, elephants, and dogs. Crows, dolphins, and pigs show aptitude as well.
Elephant art has been popular for years. They’re auctioned at Christie’s, hang in museums and grace galleries. The stars have their own academy in Thailand. A certificate of authenticity and photograph/profile of the individual artist accompany each purchase.
You would expect art from chimps. Perhaps best known out of all of them is the late Congo. One piece of work went for $25,620 at Bonham’s auction. It’s said that Pablo Picasso hung a Congo in his studio.
Then there’s Cheetah, the primate who appeared in Tarzan movies. The National Museum in London has showcased his works and he’s exhibited at a major gallery show in Southern California. Cheetah and his handlers offer originals for a mere $135.
Sam of Maryland has produced 22 paintings, one of which fetched $1,700. The sheep-dog bloodhound mix started life in a pound and now displays with the artistic elite. Sam’s owner declares that the work “is all the rage with the hip New York galleries.” A canine competitor, Tillie, does even better. She’s had more than a dozen exhibitions, including one-dog shows. The Jack Russell’s highest price so far is $2,150 while her net earnings have surpassed $100,000.
But is it real art? What is real art? Is art defined by the maker or the buyer? It’s not enough just to create; art must be perceived and embraced. If it is, it’s art.
Some argue that animals possess the higher cognition, sense of pleasure, and even the aesthetics to qualify as “artists” by human standards. In any event, you might find it difficult to distinguish a pig from a Pollack if not informed in advance. As my departed father use to say: “If Jackson Pollack’s scribbling is high art, than anything is art.” The abstract painter’s “No. 5 1948” went for $140 million a few ago years ago.Continued on the next page