The art and illustration world is a tough market to break into – whether you are looking to get published or having a gallery exhibition. However, if you are of the animal kingdom, you pretty much have a “done deal” if you have enthusiastic promoter working for you.
Much like in the art world for humans, timing and having a great story is what really gets the big price tag. There is Congo, the chimpanzee artist who outsold Renoir and Warhol. In 1956 when Congo was two, he began painting when handed a brush and paper to play with. It was noted that when he painted, if
" a picture was taken away that he didn't consider complete, Congo would reportedly begin to scream and "throw fits"
He left behind 400 works after his death – some which made it into a show at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art (refer to Congo (chimpanzee), Wikipedia).
Then there are the painterly pachyderms. As noted in These Thai elephants don't play golf, but they do have a great stroke, 8 elephant artists from the Maesa Elephant Camp, in Thailand collaborated on an 8 panel, 20 by 8 foot masterpiece. Their humans, by chance, found the perfect buyer - a Thai businesswoman and elephant lover. Knowing that the proceeds of the sale would help support these animals probably helped with the sale of their art. This elephant art fetched a jumbo price in 2005 of 1.5 million baht (approximately $45,955.00 USD today).
Unlike most animal art that consists of spattering or pushing paint around a canvas, this piece was well thought out and orchestrated. The humans did the initial design work and spent years training the elephants to paint in a pointillist style. The result is an impressionist painting of Northern Thailand scenery, titled “Cold Wind, Swirling Mist, Charming Lanna,” So although you may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, you can certainly teach an elephant.
Now that’s not to say that canines can’t paint. Some Brazilian-based paint-covered dogs shake out abstract art with their Jackson-Pollock like spatter paintings. Like the elephants, their goal is to hit the art market for some animal shelter funding (through the help of their humans).
While most successful animal art is questionable as far as quality and subject matter, one thing is for sure. With a good agent or promoter, you can succeed in the art world – if a chimp, elephant of dog can succeed – so can you.