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Rakewell

Your chance to own a painting by Congo the chimpanzee

7 October 2019

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories

When the art of Congo the chimpanzee was first exhibited in London in the 1950s – at the ICA, among other venues – it immediately won fans. His first collectors included Miró and Picasso, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh. Now a new generation of collectors have the opportunity to acquire a sample of Congo’s unique brand of ‘lyrical abstract expressionism’, as one critic has called it. The zoologist and Surrealist painter Desmond Morris is selling off his collection of paintings and pastels by the chimp, in an exhibition opening this December at the Mayor Gallery.

Congo’s 26th Painting Session, 31 October 1957.

Congo’s 26th Painting Session, 31 October 1957. Courtesy The Mayor Gallery Ltd

While researchers have made plentiful attempts to get animals to paint – and there’s even an online gallery selling the endeavours of elephants – few other undomesticated creatures have managed to follow Congo in igniting their artistic spark. Rakewell wonders whether their milieus haven’t been sufficiently creative – unlike that of the pets of artists such as William Wegman, who in a recent interview with the Guardian waxed lyrical about his canine collaborators: his dressed-up Weimaraners. ‘Really serious and so concentrated and funny,’ Wegman said of his first dog, Man Ray. When the dog started getting older, Wegman stopped photographing him, and ‘He’d come into my studio and just slump down on the floor, like, “You’re not going to do anything?”’.

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.

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