Chimp Who Likes to Paint & Other Artists

In 1957, his first works in the abstract expressionist style were in a gallery in London. Both Miro and Picasso bought his work and a couple of years ago, an American art collector bought three paintings for about $30,000. Who was the artist? His name was Congo and he was a chimpanzee. It is not only chimps that can paint and enjoy creating art, says Prof. Ben Ami Sharfstein, author of a new book Birds, Elephants and Other Artists. Elephants can paint, birds enjoy singing duets and Japanese cranes appear to dance for no other reason than enjoyment, writes Sharfstein.

Philosophers generally agree that animals can create aesthetically pleasing music and even pictures perhaps (as in the case of Congo). But it is art? Naysayers cluck their tongues. They don’t recognize animal creativity as art and believe art is reserved for the domain of human beings. "This is nothing but unjustified arrogance based on prejudice," says Sharfstein who won Israel’s most prestigious prize for philosophy in 2005.A study by a British animal behaviorist Desmond Morris, reports Haaretz, suggests that certain primates not only enjoy creating art for the pleasure of it, but they also develop their own unique style and type of artistic expression over time.

In some instances, says Sharfstein, from Tel Aviv University, one cannot tell the difference between modern art created by humans or that created by an ape. “I prefer to see them as indications of the interesting closeness between art and its pre-human sources," he says. ::Haaretz