Pierre Brassau

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Peter (alias "Pierre Brassau") in 1964

Pierre Brassau was a Swedish artist and chimpanzee who was 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 pretense that they were the work of a previously unknown 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 Peter, a four-year-old common chimpanzee from Sweden's Borås Djurpark (i.e., Borås Zoo, condensed to "Brassau").[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 one critic prophetically observed that "only an ape could have done this", most praised the works.[1] 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, Anderberg insisted that Peter's work was "still the best painting in the exhibition". A private collector bought one of the works for US$90 (equivalent to $884 in 2023).[1][3][4]

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

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  1. ^ a b c d e f "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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