Malibu’s Own ‘Zoo’

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Each life-size, fiber glass animal that Funny Zoo works with begins as a blank canvas that is later turned into a work of art. This giraffe was on display in Europe.

Driving along Pacific Coast Highway, commuters may have noticed an influx of animals in town that are not often seen in a beachside city, such as a giraffe, lion, gorilla and rhinoceros. These animals, although life-size, are fiber-glass canvases that were created in Europe and shipped to Malibu in hopes that they will someday become works of art. 

Partners Jean-Fabrice Brunel and Bernard Scoffié arrived in Malibu from France at the beginning of last year to spread the word about the latest endeavor of their company, French Pacific Events — Funny Zoo.

“Each animal is painted by an artist and displayed in a public space when they get a sponsor,” Scoffié shared. “It’s a public exhibition about art and awareness about wildlife.”

Though the blank canvas animals are currently on display outside of French Pacific Events’ Malibu office, they will eventually be painted and put on display somewhere as local as possible. 

Scoffié, the vice president of a French animal foundation and producer of the longest-running TV show in France, explained that the white and brightly colored animals were shipped that way to their Malibu office, located on PCH near Rambla Pacifico, and are not yet works of art, but blank canvases.

Scoffié and Brunel will search for a local artist to paint the animal, and a local company to sponsor the artist who will paint.

“Our big job is to get artists involved in the project,” Scoffié said. “Every artist that sees the opportunity to paint on this kind of canvas — they love it.”

The animals made their first local public appearance in Venice during an art fair, followed by a display in West Hollywood at a block party.

“Everybody stopped to take pictures because it’s so impressive when you see this because it’s huge so you want to touch it,” Scoffié said about the Venice display. “Even here [on PCH], people are stopping.”

Funny Zoo uses their pieces to promote art, but also as an educational tool to raise awareness about different animals. Each animal has an identification note, which will have the name of the animal, the sponsor, the artist and a QR code that can be scanned with a phone and the animal can tell its story, which could include information about endangerment.

Though Funny Zoo is new to California, the project has been going on in Europe for several years. Each year, a city in Europe is selected to be the capital of culture. In 2013, Marseille, France, was chosen and, according to Scoffié, the main event was a display of Funny Zoo animals.

“Each animal was painted by an artist from Marseille and sponsored by a company in Marseille,” Scoffié said. 

Scoffié encourages a working relationship between the artist and sponsor so that both parties are happy with the work.

“If we have an animal sponsored by Christian Dior, I don’t want Christian Dior written [on it], this is not art, this is advertising,” Scoffié explained. “But if, for example, we had Louboutin, we could just have the belly red and that would be funny.”

After the animals are painted, the sponsors are asked to give the animal for auction. The animals are then sold at an auction, with proceeds going toward a charity that works with animals. Scoffié hopes that Funny Zoo will be able to work with Malibu-based charities in the future.

“Our main goal is to be in Malibu because we live here,” Scoffié said. “We are members of this community with our families so I would definitely want to work with Malibu artists in the Malibu public space.” Scoffié has two children who currently attend Malibu High School, and Brunel has four children at Webster Elementary.

“Each time I talk about this animal cause, everybody is very excited,” Scoffié shared. “This is a Malibu thing … People like animals, which I like because I come from this work in France.”