The aluminum portrait and larger-than-life photographs on the roof and adjacent to the restaurant La Esquina… are … an homage by the New York City painter Allen Hirsch to Benjamin, his capuchin monkey who died at the age of 14, that is as much a reflection of a broken heart as any light on Broadway. To Mr. Hirsch, who had cut holes in the ceiling of his loft so that Benjamin could run from room to room and had allowed Benjamin to play with his daughter when she was a child, the monkey was not a pet, but “a fellow creature I take care of.”
To others, he was a fugitive. A year and a half ago, The Daily News called Benjamin a “cheek-chomping monkey” after he bit a woman at the inn Mr. Hirsch and his wife operated in upstate New York. When the local authorities demanded that Benjamin be euthanized and tested for rabies, he and Mr. Hirsch disappeared…
Benjamin, who was about 20 inches tall and weighed about seven pounds, died of cancer at a Florida animal sanctuary. Mr. Hirsch, who has created a Web site about Benjamin and the art he has made in the last year while mourning him (benjaminthemonkey.com), talked about the relationship.
Why are you putting up these pieces?
I had such an incredible epic love story with this creature. It spanned 14 years, even though it felt like 50 years, because we spent so much time together. He was dying in a box in a South American town where they kill monkeys, and I nursed him back to health. I became his mother, his father, his partner. Benjamin represented this primordial creature that sort of took me back to my elemental self. We were like two sides of the same creature. He was like the id: I brought out the human in him; he brought out the monkey in me. We had this connection which is hard to describe. I knew what he was feeling.