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Pigcasso: timeless work by a pampered porker

Swatch commissions porcine artist to paint must-have designs

02 September 2018 - 00:00 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 R1-million 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 farm-animal abuse.
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. 
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.
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...

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