Elephant or human artist?

This is a really interesting observation that we’d like to share with you. How do people know whether a genuine abstract painting has been created by a painting elephant or by a human artist? What’s the difference?

In the early days when elephant art was a new phenomenon and very few people in the world had seen it, we started to hang paintings by elephant artists alongside paintings by human artists in our physical Art Gallery in Chiang Mai.  We began by displaying a couple of elephant artworks mixed in among the paintings by human artists and they had exactly the same style of label attached underneath the frames, like: “Painted by Wanalee July 2001, Price xxx”. There was no mention that Wanalee is an elephant.


I swear that only one in ten Gallery visitors spotted the difference”

I swear that only one in ten Gallery visitors spotted the difference immediately! The reactions were priceless. We would take great pleasure in quietly observing them and then being on hand to answer the inevitable questions. Probably because the elephant paintings did have a distinct style which was appealing and different from the other abstracts on display, many visitors hovered around in front of them the longest and they’d move back and forth in the usual act of study and admiration.

When they asked us about the artist and we told them that it was an elephant, the reactions were classic. Some had a good-natured belly laugh (at themselves) and eagerly asked lots of questions about the whole process, but there were also a few people who were obviously most indignant, perhaps because they felt they had lost face by not knowing, or felt betrayed in some way. So those people would huff and puff and mumble something like: “Well of course I knew it was by an elephant, what I meant was…” and then turn on their heels and leave the Gallery.

We get the same reactions today from customers who are not yet familiar with paintings by elephant artists and we think that is marvelous.