Ruby, an Asian elephant primarily associated with the Phoenix zoo, became famous in the late 80’s for her abstract paintings. After her keepers noticed the elephant scratching in the dirt with sticks, they offered her a paintbrush, and Ruby the (very profitable) Painting Elephant was born. Art collectors from all over the world joined what became 18-month waiting lists for a painting from the elephant. An individual painting sold for up to $5,000.
According to her “CNN obituary”:http://www.cnn.com/US/9811/06/dead.elephant/, Ruby’s paintings raised about $500,000 for the zoo. She died in 1998 at 25 years of age and at 9,000 lbs. during complications from an attempted c-section.
Elephant paintings have since become something of a fad, and there are multiple other endeavors to sell paintings done by the animals; “this NOVICA article”:http://www.novica.com/news/index.cfm?articleid=51 details just a few. Multiple kinds of animal art has been sold in auctions such as Christie’s. A team of two Moscow-born entrepreneurs, Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, have even organized elephant painting-only auctions; they “began with dog art,” have exhibited photographs taken by a chimpanzee, and after their elephant project intend to “work with beavers using processed wooden boards on an architectural project” (read more about Komar and Melamid “here”:http://archives.cnn.com/2000/STYLE/arts/03/22/life.art.reut/).