Animals can paint and make sculptures. But is it art?
In a 2006 article, Gisela Kaplan, Ph.D. and Lesley J. Rogers, D.Phil., D.Sc. considered this question very carefully, by considering how animals perceive colors (elephants only see two pigments; we can see three) and whether they feel any pleasure from looking at their creations.
That is, Kaplan and Rogers sought to consider animals’ creations with paint and other materials from their perspective. To us humans, the paintings of elephants may resemble abstract art but to assume the elephant thinks the same overlooks their very different anatomy, physiology and more. Plus, we do not know if animals in their natural environment produce art.
Nonetheless, studying animals’ artwork certainly shows that many are capable of more complex behaviors than had previously been thought. Kaplan and Rogers also note that a better understanding of animals’ aesthetic sense and abilities can have implications for animal welfare:
… might realize that sounds and colors matter as much as structures in the way housing for animals is organized, whether in zoos, research facilities, or other human settings, and that we should have a much broader perspective on the types of activities we make available to these animals. Ultimately, ﬁnding that some animals share a sense of aesthetics—as humans use the term—might well change our sensitivities and attitudes to animals overall, offering further evidence to dismantle the outworn claim that animals are “just” animals.
Here are five animals who make what we humans consider art.
There have been numerous reports of primates in captivity painting. But not only have the gorillas Koko and Michael painted, they have also been able to explain what they have painted as they learned to sign: Koko painted what looked like a bird with wings (albeit too many) and signed that she had painted a bird.
A chimpanzee, Moja, also signed that she had painted a bird.
Video uploaded by J. Patrick Malone/YouTube
Photo from Thinkstock
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