Pierre Brassau refers to a 1964 hoax perpetrated by Åke "Dacke" Axelsson, a journalist at the Swedish tabloid Göteborgs-Tidningen. Axelsson came up with the idea of exhibiting a series of paintings made by a non-human primate, under the presumption that they were the work of a previously unknown human French artist named "Pierre Brassau", in order to test whether critics could tell the difference between true avant-garde modern art and the work of a chimpanzee.
"Pierre Brassau" was in fact a four-year-old common chimpanzee named Peter from Sweden's Borås djurpark zoo. Axelsson had persuaded Peter's 17-year-old keeper to give the chimpanzee a brush and paint. After Peter had created several paintings, Axelsson chose the best four and arranged to have them exhibited at the Gallerie Christinae in Göteborg, Sweden. Critics praised the works, with Rolf Anderberg of the Göteborgs-Posten writing, "Brassau paints with powerful strokes, but also with clear determination. His brush strokes twist with furious fastidiousness. Pierre is an artist who performs with the delicacy of a ballet dancer." One critic, however, panned the work, suggesting that "Only an ape could have done this."
After the hoax was revealed, Rolf Anderberg insisted that Peter/Pierre's work was "still the best painting in the exhibition." A private collector bought one of the works for US$90 (1964 US dollars).
- "Pierre Brassau, Monkey Artist". The Museum of Hoaxes.