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How Bubbles the Chimp picked up the paintbrush

9 July 2017

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

‘Please be kind, his art is just starting out.’ So reads the Twitter bio for Spike the Beetle, the latest artistic sensation to go viral online. Spike, a Sumatran stag beetle, features in a series of photographs and videos, in which he wields cooking knives and waves the Stars and Stripes in celebration of Independence Day. His main interest, however, appears to be felt tip pens, which he picks up and drags along sheets of paper to create ‘drawings’.

Rudimentary though the images are, they have earned Spike quite a fanbase; his Twitter account has attracted more than 40,000 followers in a week. You can even snap up a beetle drawing for yourself – one expressive doodle is attracting bids in excess of $250 on eBay.

But Spike is not the only non-human art sensation of the summer. Step forward Bubbles the Chimp, erstwhile companion to Michael Jackson and sometime muse to Jeff Koons. Bubbles (b.1983), who has been holed up in a ape sanctuary in Florida since 2005, has taken to painting.

Two of the chimp’s canvases are to go on show at a gallery in Miami, along with paintings by his fellow residents at the ape sanctuary. Prices range from $200 to $2,000. ‘Apes definitely have certain styles they like to paint,’ sanctuary founder Patti Ragan told the Sun. ‘Some enjoy long brush strokes while others just compose a series of dots.’ One for fans of the Fauves, then. Or indeed, of Ape-stract Expressionism.

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

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