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1955 Beat Art, Dr. Wennesland, Ernest the Monkey, Norway

Dr. Reidar Wennesland and his monkey, Ernest, who became the first and only monkey to direct the school for one month in May 1955.

Dr. Wennesland was the physician of many Beat Era artists, accepting artworks in lieu of payment. A number of SFAI artists ended up in his impressive collection, including Jay DeFeo, Jess, Joan Brown, Leo Valledor, David Park, and Richard Diebenkorn. He eventually gifted the collection to two schools in his home country of Norway, the University of Agder and his high school alma mater, Kristiansand katedralskole, where they remain on view today. For his part, after his short-lived career as a college administrator, Ernest the monkey applied to be an astronaut in NASA’s nascent primate space program, but was rejected in the second round of cuts due to poor eyesight in one eye.

(Celebrating Year 84 of #sfai150!)

With permission, SFAA is re-posting the emails Jeff Gunderson Librarian/Archivist Anne Bremer Memorial Library has been sending out since March 2020. Please enjoy this magnificent archive.


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