Art of the lesser mammals

  • 2005-07-27
  • By Milda Seputyte
KLAIPEDA - Can paintings by animals be considered good enough to be placed in museums or are they a derisive commentary on modern visual art? Can a dolphin, for example, be an artist? These are big questions in the Lithuanian art world today, and you can try finding the answers at the Gallery of Pranas Domasaitis in Klaipeda where 30 abstract paintings by dolphins are being exhibited.

The authors of the exhibit are a twosome from Klaipeda's aquarium 's a 13-year-old dolphin named Gabia and her seven-year-old daughter Premia. These rising stars have been showing off their artistic skills for several years during their live performances in Klaipeda.

Given paintbrushes, the dolphins shoot from the water, paint a few lines or blots on the paper, and swim away. Sometimes the two artists richly mottle the whole paper, while other times they merely dab the paper with a couple strokes and colors. The abstract, tempera paintings are auctioned at concerts in the aquarium and the money is donated to a therapy fund for dolphins.

"The expressive and impulsive artwork is somewhere in between the art that children produce while playing and abstractionism," said the coordinator of the exhibition Kristina Jokubaviciene. "Experts say that dolphins do have a natural artistic spirit 's they sense the colors and respond to music."

Although this is the first exhibition by animals in Lithuania, this kind of art is not new. Congo the chimp, born in 1954, was among the first animals to become an artist. He quickly learned how to handle a paintbrush and pencils, instead of knocking them over or trying to eat them. Yet what surprised researchers the most was that he appeared to know when he had finished - he refused to pick up his brush or pencil once he deemed the work complete. Congo's artworks provoked scorn and skepticism among critics of the time, but despite the criticism, the chimp's paintings were featured in his own exhibition at a top London gallery. Pablo Picasso is reported to have hung one of Congo's paintings on his studio wall after receiving it as a gift and brightly colored paintings by Congo have been sold alongside works by Andy Warhol and Renoir.

While the exhibition in Klaipeda may not make Gabia and Premia the dolphins as famous as Congo the chimp, the idea of animals consciously making art is one that is compelling. A visit to this show may just make you covertly pick up a paintbrush afterwards to see how you compare.

Art by Dolphins runs till Aug. 30

Gallery of Pranas Domsaitis

Liepu Str. 33, Klaipeda