In February 1964, four paintings by a previously unknown avant-garde French artist named Pierre Brassau were exhibited at an art show in Göteborg, Sweden. Also at the show were works by artists from England, Denmark, Austria, Italy, and Sweden, but it was the works of the French artist that attracted all the attention.
Art critics, journalists, and students, glasses of wine in hand, silently contemplated Brassau’s creations. Their praise was almost unanimous. Rolf Anderberg of the morning Posten later wrote that most of the works at the show were “ponderous,” but not those of Brassau:
“Pierre Brassau paints with powerful strokes, but also with clear determination. His brush strokes twist with furious fastidiousness. Pierre is an artist who performs with the delicacy of a ballet dancer.”
One lone critic panned Brassau’s work, declaring, “Only an ape could have done this.” As it turned out, this critic was correct. Pierre Brassau was, in fact, an ape. Specifically, he was a four-year-old West African chimpanzee named Peter from Sweden’s Boras zoo.