Pollock's? No, but the artist aped his work

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The Independent Online

At first glance, the painting, with its wild, unrestrained brush strokes and use of simple, primary colours, could be the work of the abstract artist Jackson Pollock, if not one of his contemporaries.

At first glance, the painting, with its wild, unrestrained brush strokes and use of simple, primary colours, could be the work of the abstract artist Jackson Pollock, if not one of his contemporaries.

But the canvas, which sold after frenetic bidding at a London auction house last night, is no product of the human hand - the artist generating such excitement was Congo, the chimpanzee.

Three paintings by Congo, who attracted worldwide attention after his work was featured in an exhibition at the ICA of chimpanzee art in 1957, went under the hammer at Bonhams, alongside works by Renoir and Andy Warhol. They were estimated to fetch between £600 and £800, but bidders' interest in Congo, who produced around 400 paintings in the late 1950s after being discovered by the animal behaviourist Desmond Morris, raised the prices to unexpected levels, and they were eventually sold as one lot for £14,400.

After securing the paintings, the American buyer, Howard Hong, said: "In my opinion, they represent the complete evolution of mankind."

Howard Rutkowski, director of modern and contemporary art at Bonhams, said he believed the auction could be the first of its kind. "I don't think anybody else has been crazy enough to do this. I'm sure other auction houses think this is completely mad."

A spokesman for Bonhams added there had been a "fantastic" amount of interest in the pieces.

Dr Morris's experiment with Congo and other chimpanzees convinced him that the animals could understand some elements behind human art.

Although Congo's work was treated with a combination of scorn and scepticism in the art world, Picasso is thought to have hung one of his paintings on his studio wall.

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