A West Des Moines art gallery is opening an exhibit today featuring paintings created by primates. Beth Dalbey, spokeswoman for the Great Ape Trust of Iowa, says the 20 paintings are all colorful and compelling — and could probably be logged under the category of abstract art.
Dalbey says: "Seven of them are done by orangutans and the remainder are done by our resident bonobos, including Kanzi and Panbanisha, who are language-competent apes. They both have demonstrated receptive competence for spoken English."
All 20 of the paintings will go on sale Monday via eBay as a fundraiser for the far-reaching efforts of the Des Moines-based scientific research institute. "The money from this project will go to Great Ape Trust conservation programs to save endangered wild apes," Dalbey says. "We have a major initiative in Rwanda and also support an orangutan research project on the island of Sumatra." Last year was the first year for the Apes Helping Apes exhibit and nearly 17-thousand dollars was raised from the initial collection of paintings.
Dalbey knows first-hand that buying a piece of this unusual artwork guarantees you’ll always have an excellent conversation starter on your wall. She says: "It is. I have one of the paintings that I bought in last year’s exhibit and people who visit my home are immediately drawn to it. It leads to some fascinating conversations about the intelligence and language abilities of these apes."
You can see the art in person at The Avenue Gallery in West Des Moines. Bidding on the pieces begins Monday and runs through the end of November on the Trust’s website: "www.greatapetrust.org".