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Two year old 'artist' scores Melbourne exhibition

Two year old 'artist' scores Melbourne exhibition

Is this a story of a child prodigy or a joke at the expense of the art world? In the curious case of Aelita Andre, it could be both of those things - or neither.

In October, Mark Jamieson the director of Brunswick Street Gallery in Melbourne's Fitzroy, was asked by a Russian-born photographer whose work he represented to consider the work of another artist.

Nikka Kalashnikova showed Jamieson some abstract paintings by an artist named Aelita Andre; Jamieson liked what he saw and agreed to include it in a group show, alongside work by Kalashnikova and Julia Palenov at his gallery later this month.

Jamieson then started to promote the show, printing glossy invitations and placing ads in the magazines Art Almanac and Art Collector, featuring the abstract work. Only then did he discover a crucial fact about the new artist: Aelita Andre is Kalashnikova's daughter, and then she was just 22 months old. She turns two tomorrow.

"I was shocked and, to be honest, a little embarrassed," Jamieson said, but he decided to proceed with the exhibition.

Jamieson said his gallery had a policy of supporting emerging artists, although that policy did not usually extend to artists quite so young. He said it was difficult to judge abstract art.

Kalashnikova said she and her husband, Michael Andre, did not set out to mislead the gallery. They simply wanted Aelita's work to be judged on its merits. "I wanted to get it out there and get a separate opinion," she said. "Of course, every mother is proud of their child. I didn't tell him [Jamieson] because I had all these feelings going through my head - fear, embarrassment."

She said Aelita began painting shortly before she could walk. Both parents are artists and Aelita was used to seeing them work on canvases on the floor.

Aelita's dad said as soon as she began drawing in her Montessori play group he could see her creations were different from other children's. "It immediately leapt out as a defined representation of something in an abstract form."

When shown the works without any information on the artist, The Age's art critic, Robert Nelson said his first impression was of "credible abstractions, maybe playing on Asian screens with their reds.

"They're heavily reliant on figure/ground relations."

After learning Aelita's age, Nelson said he was not particularly surprised. "I have kids and when they were little I used to do lots of painting exercises with them. If it is a child's work it's not a child alone. We're happy to credit the child but it begins with a parental concept."

- Story by Clare Kermond for SMH. Photos by Wayne Taylor.

You can view a video of Aelita painting here on TheVine.

14 comments so far..

  • missdemeanour's avatar
    Commenter
    missdemeanour
    Date and time
    Thursday 08 Jan 2009 - 4:16 PM
    Just proves that art curators have no idea!
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  • Tobler1's avatar
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    Tobler1
    Date and time
    Thursday 08 Jan 2009 - 4:56 PM
    I wonder if she's learnt how to paint dollar signs yet? This is shit and I hate the idea. Call me an 'art snob' but the idea of some douche analysing this as legitimate art and not something worthy of a place on the fridge by some proud parents just pisses me off. Would I get the same merit for my robot drawings as a toddler? Doubt.
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  • missdemeanour's avatar
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    missdemeanour
    Date and time
    Thursday 08 Jan 2009 - 5:15 PM
    Look, even this monkey can make art! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_qlt_qbfYw&feature=PlayList&p=E11BB1FD41510B6E&playnext=1&index=14
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  • Josstix's avatar
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    Josstix
    Date and time
    Thursday 08 Jan 2009 - 9:21 PM
    I think the photo of the kid covered in paint is much more pleasing... In the 80's there was a dolphin at Sea World that used to paint...
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  • Bowie's avatar
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    Bowie
    Date and time
    Thursday 08 Jan 2009 - 11:17 PM
    If it's really so "difficult" to work out if a painting is 'art' then isn't the answer pretty clear?
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  • This-Too-Will-Pass's avatar
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    This-Too-Will-Pass
    Date and time
    Friday 09 Jan 2009 - 9:11 AM
    Ingenious promotion by The Brunswick Street Gallery.
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  • chickchickchicken's avatar
    Commenter
    chickchickchicken
    Date and time
    Friday 09 Jan 2009 - 10:18 AM
    The difference between this and real art is that an actual artist creates works with an intention: to express emotion or convey some kind of message. This child is creating these works because she's been told to, and probably finds it fun, but with no intention, message or emotion attempting to be conveyed. Art lesson over.
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  • CaptainAwesome's avatar
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    CaptainAwesome
    Date and time
    Friday 09 Jan 2009 - 10:29 AM
    I still don't understand how that argument stands up when this child's work is completely and utterly indistinguishable from "proper" art in the same form. Art is a very personal thing. It has to be accepted that by institutionalising certain art as "proper" you run this risk of it being completely and utterly discredited by a random infant. In summary: fuck art snobs.
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  • chickchickchicken's avatar
    Commenter
    chickchickchicken
    Date and time
    Friday 09 Jan 2009 - 10:43 AM
    This means that you are discussing art on a very shallow level: what it looks like. Usually a huge amount of effort, thought and care is put into creating work. That is not the case here.
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  • Tobler1's avatar
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    Tobler1
    Date and time
    Friday 09 Jan 2009 - 10:53 AM
    Try and tell me a 2 year olds brain purposefully thinks in an 'abstract' manner. She is going to be the Michael Jackson of the art scene with questionably exploitive parents. How duped should you feel if a 2 year old was behind the art that was presented to you.. that you LIKED? There is no question its art, its just a DUMB idea to exhibit it. I bet a bunch of people will go to the exhibit and glorify it as a masterpiece. I repeat... DUMB
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