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Last Updated: Monday, 16 June, 2003, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Chimp display is Biennale 'hit'
A chimp like this one has become a Biennale sensation
An art display which features a chimpanzee trying to spell "utopia" using giant lettered blocks has become a huge hit at Venice's Biennale exhibition, according to reports.

The display, which features an Italian-resident chimpanzee called Lala, was created by the Berlin-based Scandinavian artists Ingar Dragset and Michael Elmgreen.

The show, Spelling U-T-O-P-I-A, features the 20-year-old chimp - who is a star of Italian films including Bongo Bongo - has not yet managed to spell the word, it was reported in The Guardian on Monday.

The installation has been a hit despite the fact Lala has made only two brief appearances in the festival's first two days.

'True diva'

In her first attempt, she nearly spelled the word. In her second, she formed the words T-I-P, T-I-T and then O-U-T before throwing a tantrum, the paper reported.

"You cannot mess with her. She is a true diva," Mr Elmgreen said. "Chimpanzees are very, very strong animals. If they are really provoked, they could kill a human being."

After her two days on show Lala has now returned to her home in Rome.

Chris Ofili painting
British artist Chris Ofili is included at the Biennale

Mr Elmgreen denied claims the chimpanzee had been mistreated by being forced to perform.

"Lala is an old professional. She is the star of many Italian films... we didn't want her to get distressed, so we were very careful to limit her appearances."

While she was staying in Venice, Lala stayed at a secluded garden away from the city's tourist hordes.

Egypt controversy

The Biennale, one of the biggest arts events in the world, is held every two years at the Giardini gardens overlooking Venice's Lido.

It has already caused controversy this year which Hungarian artists using a 3,500-year-old bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti in a video installation.

The Egyptian government lodged a formal complaint to the Berlin Egyptian Museum, where the bust is held, and demanded that the bust be returned to Egypt.

The Biennale opened on Sunday and will run until November.

In pictures: Venice Biennale
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