Since 1998, artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid have been teaching laid-off loggers in Thailand and Bali to paint abstract art, and in that short time, these neophytes have established thriving professional careers. However, while their art may be colorful and eye-pleasing, it is not purchased on its merits alone. The painters, you see, are elephants; some were once used to haul felled trees but were abandoned by their owners after the logging trade in Southeast Asia went bust.
Elephant art is not a new phenomenon. Canvases painted by the late pachyderm Ruby reportedly raised more than $100,000 annually for the Phoenix Zoo. In that same vein, the art produced by Komar and Melamid’s protégés will benefit the Asian elephant, an endangered species whose population has sharply dwindled over the last century. Novica.com (877.266.8422, www.novica.com), a fine arts and home decor web site that is affiliated with National Geographic, has signed a stable of more than a dozen Asian elephants trained by the two artists to paint original acrylics. Proceeds from the sale of the art fund elephant rescue centers in Asia.