Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)
21 Jun 2001 to 19 Aug 2001
When Elephants Paint was an exhibition of paintings created by elephants from The Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project (AEACP), an initiative by New York-based Russian conceptual artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid.
The AEACP was established by Komar and Melamid in 1997 as a means of raising awareness around the declining numbers of Asian elephants in countries such as Thailand, India and Indonesia. Komar and Melamid began a program of teaching elephants, in collaboration with their mahouts (trainers), to hold brushes and, using non-toxic paint, to paint on paper and canvas and create abstract works that could be promoted and distributed to raise awareness and funds for Asian elephants.
When Elephants Paint presented a range of works by elephants from Thailand, India and Bali, as well as one of Komar and Melamid’s earliest collaborative works with an elephant in the United States. The elephants’ paintings were available for sale in an on-line auction, with proceeds from the sale donated to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to assist elephant conservation projects across the Asia Pacific region. Included in the exhibition was a resource room providing information and background on Komar and Melamid’s career, the AEACP, interviews with supporters of the project and as-of then unseen footage of Asian elephants learning to paint.
Also included in the exhibition was a series of surreal photographs of Moscow’s Red Square taken by seven-year old Russian chimpanzee Mikki, who was taught to use various cameras by Komar and Melamid during the summer of 1998.
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, Vic: 1 – 30 September 2001