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Last Updated: Monday, 20 June, 2005, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Bidders go ape for chimpanzee art
Congo
Congo painted the pictures at the age of three
Three abstract paintings by a chimpanzee named Congo have been sold for 12,000 - after being given a price tag of just 800.

The animal art, painted when the chimp was three, went under the hammer on Tuesday at auction house Bonhams in central London.

Congo's work was included in a 1957 chimp art exhibition curated by animal behaviourist Desmond Morris.

The three works were bought by US modern art enthusiast Howard Hong.

Bonhams said there had been a "fantastic" amount of interest in the paintings, which had been sold as one lot.

Art by Congo the chimp
Three works by Congo were auctioned together

The chimp art was part of an exhibition at London's ICA put on by animal expert and painter Morris.

Morris, author of The Naked Ape, had attempted to understand "chimpanzees' ability to create order and symmetry as well as to explore, at a more primeval level, the impetus behind our own desires for artistic creativity," auction house Bonhams said.

His encouragement led to Congo producing about 400 drawings and paintings in the late 1950s which were received by the art world with a mixture of scorn and scepticism.

Andy Warhol
Warhol invited friends to urinate on copper painted canvas

Piss Paintings

However, Picasso is believed to have framed one of the chimp's works on his studio wall after he received it as a gift, while Miro was also said to have owned one.

"I would sincerely doubt that chimpanzee art has ever been auctioned before," said Howard Rutkowski, director of modern and contemporary art at Bonhams.

He added: "I don't think anybody else has been crazy enough to do this. I'm sure other auction houses think this is completely mad."

Also in the sale is one of Andy Warhol's famous Piss Paintings.

To create the works he put copper paint on canvas, placed them on the floor and invited his friends and colleagues to urinate on them.

Dated 1979, Bonham's gave it an estimate of between 35,000-45,000.


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SEE ALSO:
Chimp display is Biennale 'hit'
16 Jun 03 |  Entertainment


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