Press Release - June 9, 1999
Contact: Amy Douthett
JUNE 9, 1999
(212) 749-9776


Photographs and Paintings by Chimpanzees and Elephants the Result of Unique Collaboration by Russian Artists Komar and Melamid

(Venice, Italy) - New York-based collaborative artists Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid announced today that works of art generated in a unique collaboration with chimpanzees and elephants have been selected for display at the Russian Pavilion of the famous Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy. The two projects selected, Moscow Through the Eyes of Mikki and works generated by The Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project, are the latest in a series of animal collaborations undertaken by the innovative Russian artists.

The Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project grew out of a series of collaborations with elephant artists. While working with the elephant Renee at the Toledo, Ohio zoo in 1995, Komar & Melamid developed a method of teaching elephants to paint. In November 1998, they founded two Elephant Art Academies in Lampang and Ayuthaya, Thailand in order to assist starving elephants formerly used to haul lumber, and their keepers, mahouts. The first exhibition in Bangkok raised more than US$50,000 to benefit local conservation projects. This summer, Komar & Melamid plan to open new academies in India and Indonesia.

Moscow Through the Eyes of Mikki is a series of photographs taken by a 7-year old chimpanzee, in collaboration with Komar & Melamid, who taught him to use various cameras during the summer of 1998. After working extensively with a Polaroid instant camera, Mikki began to understand the relationship between the images that appeared on the photographs and what he saw in front of him. While using cameras without automatic focus, Mikki often changed the focus by touching the lens with his nose. The "impressionistic" work that resulted reminded the artists of their nostalgic childhood memories.

Komar & Melamid initially hoped to bring animal artists to accompany their animal kingdom show at the Venice Biennale, but were unable to overcome the bureaucratic obstacles regarding the transportation of animals.

Interviews can be arranged with Komar & Melamid, and also with Asian elephant expert Richard Lair, on site at the elephant academy in Lampang, Thailand.


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