The Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project (AEACP) is a non-profit organization dedicated to aiding people in need and to saving the diminishing number of Asian elephants left on our planet through its work with domesticated elephants. The AEACP raises funds through the sale of artwork created by elephants in order to generate money and create awareness for the people and elephants of Asia.

The AEACP is a continuing work of art by conceptual artists, Komar & Melamid. In its creation, Komar & Melamid brought the idea of teaching elephants how to paint from US zoos to the impoverished countryside of Southeast Asia, where the much needed ban on logging in the late 80’s left the remaining few thousand elephants and their caretakers out of work. The extensive logging of the countryside and the explosion of the human population in the area led to the destruction of much of the elephants’ natural habitat, leaving them with no wild to return to. Thousands of elephants and their lifelong caretakers were left without financial support and have since been forced to beg for food on crowded city streets. The Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project is designed to help these surviving elephants and the people that care for them. The project is grounded on the basis of art functioning as charity, or art for the betterment of people as a whole.

The idea of art as charity is a largely original concept, although based in a long line of art rhetoric. Back in the 1920’s, Russian theorist, Chuzhak, coined the term, “life building” based upon his studies of Alexandar Bogdanov’s Organizational Theory of Art, in which Bogdanov theorized that art, as with any human activity, is based upon organization. Art, Bogdanov argued, was simply the organization of colors, lines, shapes, medium, etc. Under this premise, Bogdanov claimed that art of the future would involve the actual organization of people themselves, hopefully for the betterment of those peoples’ lives.

During the 60’s and 70’s these concepts of “life building” were revived in the works of German artist, Joseph Beuys, in what he called, “social sculpture.” His works as well as the French Situationists ideas of artistic intervention were based upon the concepts of Russian Constructivism. Komar & Melamid’s Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project is a continuation of this body of thought. The marketing and sales of the elephants’ work is the pure expression of basic Constructivist theories. The major difference between this project and similar works by artists such as Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons is that the AEACP is not built on a ‘business’ model, but rather as a full-fledged non-profit organization designed to better the world in which we live.

The AEACP is not necessarily a vehicle for social change, as Joseph Beuys may have envisioned, but does function as a charity designed to increase peoples’ consciousness and to help those individuals in need. Money that is raised by the AEACP is distributed to the people of Southeast Asia, in countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia. The funds raised through the sale of elephant art has real power to improve peoples’ lives as well as to improve the welfare of the world’s remaining elephants. In order to accomplish our existing mission, we need to expand our realm of influence and activity around the globe.

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