Pierre Brassau

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Peter (aka "Pierre Brassau") in 1964

Pierre Brassau was a chimpanzee and the subject of 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.[1]

"Pierre Brassau" was in fact a four-year-old common chimpanzee named Peter from Sweden's Borås djurpark zoo.[2] 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.[1] While some critics were far from positive, one rightfully guessing that "only an ape could have done this", others praised the works, Rolf Anderberg of the Göteborgs-Posten wrote, "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."[1][3][4]

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 $90 USD, equivalent to $473 in 2014 USD.[1][3][4]

In 1969 Peter was transferred to the Chester Zoo in England.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Pierre Brassau, Monkey Artist". The Museum of Hoaxes. 
  2. ^ "Zoo Story". Time. February 1964. 
  3. ^ a b "Avantgarde artist Pierre Brassau". ecclesiastes911.net. Retrieved 27 February 2016. 
  4. ^ a b Lemarquis, Pierre (2012). Portrait du cerveau en artiste (in French). Paris: Odile Jacob. p. 69. ISBN 978-2-7381-7850-3. 

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