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The Sophisticated and Exciting Art Created by Animals


Several institutions open the path for talented animals that can impress their own narratives through artistic means.

The perception of animals as artistic creators has evolved since they gave paintbrushes to first chimps in England. Back then, the animals were “handled” by their trainers and thus they would create objects that humans considered beautiful. An example of this is Boon Me, the elephant’s flower vase, which was drawn by following instructions from his trainer who moved one of his ears to instruct him the direction in which he had to move his trunk. The result was fascinating, but a trick none the less –– It reflects more about our expectations than Boon’s talent.

But the new perception of animals as artists shows them more like the holders of sensitivities and impulses that have nothing to do with human beings. For the first time ever, the biological determinism is the only thing that matters when it comes down to animals expressing their lives. In exhibitions that range from the Washington National Zoo through to MoMA in New York, the wonderful work of animals is shown. Armadillos, hairless rats, cockroaches, leopard geckos, lions, grizzly bears, toucans and pandas are all now part of the artistic animal kingdom.

In the Washington Zoo, the sloths (who feed by blowing on soil in their native lands and then inhale to suck termites) were given a straw-like device to blow paint on a canvas. Frogs were given an organic substance similar to paint, created with the algae they feed on. The animals then act on their free will: “if they don’t feel like playing then they don’t”, points out the team from the zoo.


As a counterpart to these small-scale projects, museums like the MoMa in New York have devoted themselves to showing these types of exhibitions, and while most of the pieces were directed towards an anthropomorphic result, the pieces are still outstanding. Works such as the Honeycomb Vasecreated by Tomáš Gabzdil Libertíny’s, is a beautiful example of these. The bees created a delicate hive in the shape of an ancient vase that anybody would love to hold in their hands.


Another incredible experiment is Attracted to Light, by Geoffrey Mann for MoMA’s Applied Design exhibition. He used cinematic technology to capture moths’ flight paths, and their trajectory was translated into a 3D impression. The result was a beautiful structure shaped like a dancing lamp.


Similarly, Ant Works, by Catherine Chalmers, also stands out among as one of the most delightful of these projects. Many of these works are available on the Applied Design website, all of them innocent and sophisticated in character. Animals are inspiration, and these works of art only remind us to take a closer look at them and their way of tracing time.

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