Avantgarde artist Pierre Brassau

In 1964 an art exhibition was held in the Swedish city of Göteborg. The work of previously unknown French painter, Pierre Brassau, attracted much attention. Art critic Rolf Anderberg wrote in the morning Posten: "Pierre Brassau paints with powerful strokes but also with clean determination. His brush strokes twist with a furious fastidiousness on the canvas ... Pierre is an artist who performs with the delicacy of a ballet dancer." One private collector bought Brassau's painting for $90 (equivalent to $500- $1000 in 2006).

Pierre Brassau turned out to be an ape.

Two pranksters, Åke "Dacke" Axelsson (a journalist) and Yngve Funkegård (an artist) gave a brush and paints to the chimp, named Peter, from local Borås zoo. The ape took to art like duck to water. The pranksters hung his work in a gallery under the brush name of Pierre Brassau.

When the hoax was revealed, art critic Anderberg still insisted that Pierre's work, was the best painting in the exhibition. Not everyone was fooled by the monkey work however. Another art critic wrote: "Only an ape could have done this." And what about you? Can you tell an immortal masterpiece of abstract art from monkey work? Take this quiz to find out: An artist, or an ape?

Consulted sources:

  • Sports Illustrated, "Monkey Buiseness", Feb 24, 1964, vol. 20, no 8, p.13
  • TIME magazine, "Zoo Story", Feb. 21, 1964.
  • Göteborgs-Posten 1964 (the selection of the most interesting articles of the year, available on the internet)
Avantgarde artist Pierre Brassau in his cage.

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