The director of the State Art Museum of Moritzburg in Saxony-Anhalt, Katja Schneider, suggested the painting was by the Guggenheim Prize-winning artist Ernst Wilhelm Nay. "It looks like an Ernst Wilhelm Nay. He was famous for using such blotches of colour," Dr Schneider confidently asserted. The canvas was actually the work of Banghi, a 31-year-old female chimp at the local zoo. While Banghi likes to paint, she is not able to build up much of a body of work as her mate Satscho generally destroys her paintings before they can get to the gallery. But this one survived long enough to give Dr Schneider a red face. "I did think it looked a bit rushed," she told Bild newspaper.
Of course, this isn't the first time monkey art has fooled an expert. The classic case occurred in 1964 when newsmen from Sweden's Göteborgs-Tidningen obtained some paintings by Peter, a four-year-old chimp at the Boras zoo. They hung the paintings in a gallery, claiming they were the work of avant-garde artist Pierre Brassau. And soon the works were drawing critical acclaim. One critic 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."
Once upon a time a popular art hoax involved getting critics to praise a work of art, and then revealing that the work was really created by a monkey or a child, thereby proving what poor judgement the critics had. For instance, in the 1960s critics were embarrassed by the cases of Pierre Brassau, the monkey artist, as well as Willie the Painting Worm. But I don't think that kind of hoax would work today because critics seem to be voluntarily lining up to heap praise on works by animals and infants. Paintings by asian elephants are fetching thousands of dollars, and now a 4-year-old girl in New York, Marla Olmstead, is creating a buzz in the art world, having just had her own gallery show. That's one of her paintings to the right. The owner of the gallery said it was his most successful show ever. The NY Times reports that "Marla has sold 24 paintings totaling nearly $40,000, with the prices going up. Her latest paintings are selling for $6,000. Some customers are on a waiting list." I guess this proves that art is whatever critics say is art.
"The Laughing Gnome" was a single by David Bowie. Released in 1967, the song was a novelty single, as Bowie desperately tried to find a commercial breakthrough. The track consisted of the singer meeting the creature of the title and having a conversation, with the gnome’s high-pitched voice (provided by Bowie and studio engineer Gus Dudgeon) delivering a number of deliberately terrible puns on the word ‘gnome’.
Despite this wanton abandonment of Bowie’s musical standards, at the time “The Laughing Gnome” would not provide Bowie with the much-wanted hit single.
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