Animal art on display

Top hotels in London are rich in visitors looking to take in the city's historic art offerings, from Da Vinci through to Picasso, but a new exhibit hopes to attract a wider crowd with paintings by animals.

Open from February 1st through to March 9th at the Grant Museum of Zoology, the gallery Art by Animals hopes to challenge the definition of art by showcasing what apes and elephants can do with a paint brush.

Ideal for avant-garde culture vultures in luxury suites in London, the gallery has been formed by the University College of London as part of a collaboration between its zoology and fine arts departments.

The star of the show is former logging elephant Boon Me whose painting of a vase takes centre stage among other pieces.

Alongside the work of chimps, orang-utans, elephants and more will be animal specimens and presentations, with the aim of raising funds for the conservation of London Zoo.

"We believe the exhibition at the Grant Museum to be the first to exhibit multiple species' paintings and to attempt to take a broad view of the phenomenon," explained gallery co-curator Mike Tuck.

Jack Ashby, manager of the Grant Museum of Zoology, said that the exhibit could spark a debate over the nature of what makes art.

"While individual elephants are trained to always paint the same thing, art produced by apes is a lot more creative and is almost undistinguishable from abstract art by humans that use similar techniques," he said.

"Ape art is often compared to that of two or three-year-old children in the 'scribble stage'."

Organisers admit that any notion of the paintings as art is entirely projected by the viewer, but they suggest that this could still be seen as a form of art.

The exhibit will also explore the history of animal art, with depictions of painting monkeys dating back to 17th century and the rise of the subject as a serious concern in the 1950s alongside the abstract expressionist movement.

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