Late chimpanzee painter Congo to get his first solo show in December

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Congo created some 400 artworks between 1956 and 1959.

The selling exhibition, entitled "Congo The Chimpanzee: The Birth of Art," will open on December 3 at the Mayor Gallery in London.

It will feature some 55 paintings and pastels by the late chimpanzee, who died from tuberculosis at the age of 10 in 1964.

His works have previously caught the interest of high-profile collectors such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Roland Penrose and the Duke of Edinburgh.

The artworks come from the private collection of Surrealist artist and zoologist Desmond Morris, who collaborated with Congo in the late 1950s.

The famed ethnologist observed and recorded the chimp's interest in creating "art for art's sake," sharing his findings in his seminal 1967 book "The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal."

Over a three-year period, Congo completed some 400 paintings in an Abstract Expressionist style featuring repeated motifs as well as his signature "fan" pattern.

Although Morris has worked with several apes over the years, the zoologist pointed out that none exhibited Congo's artistic spark.

"No other apes were controlling the mark making and varying the patterns as he was. I originally picked Congo out as one of the more boisterous at the zoo and felt that his strong personality would respond well to focused periods of working together," he recalled in a statement.

This is not the first time that the Mayor Gallery will showcase works by Congo. The London gallery exhibited several of his compositions in the 2005 show "Ape Artists of the 50s," which also featured pieces by two other primates.

Earlier the same year, three of his paintings went under the hammer for an unexpected £14,000 at Bonhams in London, even outpricing lots from Warhol and Renoir.

The artworks on view from December 3 through 19 at the Mayor Gallery will range from £1,500 to £6,000 each.

"I am holding onto the serious, scientific research notes that I made during my years working with Congo, but, at 91 years old, I now would rather that the paintings and drawings be made available to other collectors, to whom I hope they will bring as much pleasure as they have to me," Morris said in a statement ahead of the selling exhibition.