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Yang Yang in her studio (image by Daniel Zupanc and courtesy of the Vienna Zoo)

Yang Yang, a panda in the Schönbrunn Zoo (also known as the Vienna Zoo), has been painting minimalist, gestural abstract works from a cage — and you can own one, for €490 (~$570).

The zoo started the project in hopes of raising €25,000 (~$25,000) to produce a book based on the family of panda bears in the Vienna Zoo.

The book, Pandas, will feature illustration and photography, and be published in German and English. It will trace the journey of the panda family to Vienna, beginning with negotiations with China to first receive the bears (one of whom was Yang Yang) in 2003, to the most recent additions to their family, a set of twins named Fu Feng and Fu Ban. The question will answer a number of questions for zoophiles about the pandas eating habits, medical care, etc, with photographic spreads of the bears Long Hui, Yang Yang, Fu Long, Fu Hu, Fu Bao, Fu Feng, and Fu Ban.

To raise the funds, they are pre-selling the book, offering postcards, tickets to the museum, chewed bamboo sticks, photography workshops, and yes, paintings by Yang Yang.

While, it may be extremely cute to see a paintbrush between a panda’s paws, it is distressing to see her paint in such a confining space where she reaching out behind bars. She was specially made a bamboo brush to fit her hand, and makes drawings with finger-painting ink on paper.

The zoo advertises that the bear will paint exactly 100 editions, complete with a certificate of authenticity.

Two of the artist’s masterpieces (image by Daniel Zupanc and courtesy of the Vienna Zoo)

Eveline Dungl, the zoologist who supervises her painting, said in a press release:

Yang Yang really enjoys painting. She often can’t wait to get hold of the brush as soon as it’s within reach and off she goes. She’ll even paint several pictures at once when she feels like it. And then she’ll take a break to get her reward of carrots and sweet potatoes. Her style always varies: from lively to subtle.

Admittedly, I’m skeptical, and I would really like to know more about the proprietors of these sparse “Panda Paintings” (perhaps the same bunch enthralled by dolphin masterpieces). Nevertheless, the zoo has surpassed its goal of €25,000, and is now hoping to expand the book’s size and print run by raising €35,000.

Following years of outrage against SeaWorld after the highly publicized 2013 documentary Blackfishwhich has left the company in financial ruin, it’s surprising to see the maintained success of the zoo industry. With all of the funds raised, we can all hope they’ll at least upgrade her studio space.

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Jasmine Weber

Jasmine Weber is Hyperallergic's news editor. She is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn, particularly interested in Black art histories and visual culture. She received her B.A. in Ethnic Studies...

2 replies on “You Can Now Own a Genuine Work of Art by a Panda — If You Have $570”

  1. Thank you for raising the issue of the means of confinement. Yes, a somewhat dear photo but painful to watch as well. I sense that many more people are realizing the unfairness of essentially imprisoning our extended family members in zoos, water parks, and aquariums. Sadly, we may one day have to provide what I hope will be far better facilities for the protection of species that hunters or our damaged climate have threatened with extinction. Look for an image of #45’s punk sons grinning as they hold the limp body of a murdered leopard or pose with the butchered tail of an elephant.

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