March 25, 2009 / 6:53 AM / 10 years ago

Prodigy or pressured? Aussie toddler's art on show

MELBOURNE (Reuters Life!) - Like most 2-year-olds, Aelita Andre loves to play with paints, but instead of hanging in her room, the Australian toddlers’ works are in an art gallery.

Andre, whose parents are both artists, caused a stir in the Australian art scene recently when her paintings went on display in an exhibition in Melbourne alongside works by established adult artists.

The owner of the gallery found out her age only after accepting the works and promoting the exhibit, raising questions about whether Andre is an art prodigy or just a child being helped by her parents.

“There’s probably some degree of collaboration between parent and child,” said Robert Nelson, art critic and associate professor of art and design at Monash University.

“The colorful backdrop, the calligraphic marks that was probably put there by a parent, that’s not the work of a child, certainly not a child of that age,” he told Reuters.

Andre’s parents, Michael Andre and Nikka Kalashnikova, insist their daughter’s works are all her own, and that they noticed her talent on the canvas at an early age.

“I first noticed it in her playgroup when she was doing her water colors on paper. And to me I just naturally saw abstract representations, objects and scenes and various things,” father Michael said.

Kalashnikova said she often takes her daughter to art galleries, and gives her canvases and acrylic paints just like other parents provide paper and crayons for their children.

“I don’t want to push her into anything,” she said.

“I really want her to explain her world, what she sees on canvas, whichever way she sees it, whichever way she wants it, whichever method she uses.”

Critic Nelson said that regardless of the controversy, Andre’s paintings are a beautiful showcase of the quality of a child’s imagination.

“It drew to the public’s attention the quality of a child’s imagination and the child’s interest in art through proactive parents and to me that’s a great thing,” he added.

Andre’s paintings are priced at between $240 and $1,400. Her parents said proceeds from any sale will be put into a trust fund for their daughter.

Writing by Miral Fahmy; Editing by Paul Tait

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