Time­less work by a pam­pered porker A col­lec­tor sends her caramel pop­corn from New York ev­ery month — a bit ridicu­lous

Swatch com­mis­sions porcine artist to paint must-have de­signs

Sunday Times - - News Animal Art - By SUTHENTIRA GOVENDER

● She may have cre­ated the art­work for a col­lec­tion of lim­ited-edi­tion Swiss watches, but all Pig­casso the 750kg paint­ing porker cares about is whether the time­pieces would make tasty treats.

The ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ist has be­come the first non­hu­man to be com­mis­sioned by the Swatch Group to cre­ate de­signs for its funky col­lec­tion of watches.

Speak­ing from Swatch’s head­quar­ters in Switzer­land, cre­ative di­rec­tor Carlo Gior­danetti told the Sun­day Times that the watch­maker was thrilled to be col­lab­o­rat­ing with the fa­mous pig.

“We are ex­cited about the en­er­getic, colour­ful and fun col­lab­o­ra­tion with Pig­casso. Her de­sign will join our col­lec­tion with a world­wide launch in Fe­bru­ary 2019. We can’t un­veil more now, stay tuned,” said Gior­danetti.

Pig­casso, now two and a half years old, has earned more than R1m for her owner, Joanne Lef­son, who ploughs the pro­ceeds from the paint­ings into her Fran­schhoek Farm Sanc­tu­ary, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that res­cues live­stock and raises aware­ness of far­man­i­mal abuse.

Twist in the tail

Lef­son saved Pig­casso from be­com­ing sand­wich fill­ing when the pig was six months old. Since then Pig­casso — which dis­played tal­ent from the out­set when she chose a paint­brush in­stead of a ball as a toy — has gen­er­ated sev­eral works that have been sold to col­lec­tors lo­cally and abroad.

Swatch learnt about Pig­casso fol­low­ing her de­but ex­hi­bi­tion, ap­pro­pri­ately named Oink, at the V&A Wa­ter­front ear­lier this year.

“When Pig­casso be­came the first non­hu­man to host an art ex­hi­bi­tion, it be­came an in­ter­na­tional news story,” Lef­son said. “We had tele­vi­sion net­works from China and Ger­many to ‘in­ter­view’ her — of course she nearly ate their mi­cro­phones.”

Lef­son is thrilled about the Swatch deal. “Pig­casso is the first non­hu­man artist to de­sign a Swatch. We haven’t re­ally had time to take it all in, but I am sure when I pass her on the big screen in Zurich air­port pro­mot­ing Swatch, the penny will drop.”

Lef­son said it was “just amaz­ing” to think that Pig­casso had been des­tined to be­come a ba­con break­fast but was in­stead cre­at­ing de­signs for Swatch.

Sorry, no jet-set life­style

The Swiss brand pro­vided Lef­son and Pig­casso with guide­lines for the de­signs, in­clud­ing the colour and theme. Lef­son said a clause in the con­tract pre­vented her from giv­ing the value of the deal.

“All I can say is that the pro­ceeds will ben­e­fit Farm Sanc­tu­ary SA, so we can help more farm an­i­mals liv­ing a re­ally bad ex­is­tence.”

Pig­casso has a life most pigs would envy — she paints in the early morn­ing and in the evening, and sleeps and snacks in be­tween.

When the sow has to travel, Lef­son lures her into a “very solid” Mercedes-Benz van with a trail of pop­corn.

Pig­casso’s work has at­tracted the at­ten­tion of art lovers through­out the world and has caught the eye of re­al­ity shows Amer­ica’s Got Tal­ent and Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent, which wanted her to make cameo ap­pear­ances.

But Lef­son de­clined, say­ing she could not put the hefty pig on a plane be­cause she would not fit through the doors and would prob­a­bly eat the seats.

“She even has a col­lec­tor who sends her caramel pop­corn from New York ev­ery month — a bit ridicu­lous.”

Pig­casso’s most ex­pen­sive paint­ing to date is her Life is Beau­ti­ful piece, which sold to a Ger­man buyer in Jan­uary for R42,000.

“Her most pop­u­lar lim­ited-edi­tion print — now in its third print run — is her take on Andy Warhol’s Love print,” Lef­son said.

Road-hog de­sign for Nis­san

Pig­casso’s paint­ing prow­ess and its earn­ings have sur­prised many in the art world.

“I had a Rus­sian artist Face­book me a while back, say­ing he was cry­ing be­cause a pig had sold more art­work than him,” Lef­son said.

The porcine artist is no stranger to the lime­light, hav­ing helped in a Nis­san cam­paign to cel­e­brate the 60th an­niver­sary of its Sky­line model last year.

The Ja­panese car­maker used the ran­dom twists, curves and bends in one of Pig­casso’s cre­ations to lay out a com­plex track in a gi­ant park­ing lot, then chal­lenged Ger­man rac­ing driver Michael Krumm to tackle it in the car, which boasts an in­no­va­tive steer­ing sys­tem.

Lef­son is pre­par­ing for ex­hi­bi­tions in Ger­many, Switzer­land and Lon­don next year.

“We are look­ing at Ger­many, to in­spire con­sumers to look at pig pro­duc­tion dif­fer­ently. Ger­many is the sec­ond-big­gest pork pro­ducer be­sides China.” ● In 1992, Swatch re­leased a lim­ited-edi­tion piece based on a de­sign by ab­stract artist Sam Fran­cis. The com­pany made only 49,999 watches, of which 48,888 were avail­able for sale. The re­main­ing watches were given to staff and celebri­ties.

It is be­lieved that Pig­casso’s paint­ing will be sim­i­lar to this de­sign.

Swatches range in price from R750 to R7,500.

Pig­casso, res­cued from cer­tain death in an abat­toir by Joanne Lef­son, has found her call­ing in ab­stract art.

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