Ever since Andy Warhol’s iconic album cover for the Velvet Underground, bananas have enjoyed cult status as the fruit of choice for modern and contemporary art. And now it seems the banana’s status has risen even higher with artist Maurizio Cattelan’s latest stunt in which he duct taped one to the wall of a booth at Art Basel Miami.
According to his gallery, “Every time he travelled, he brought a banana with him and hung it in his hotel room to find inspiration. He made several models: first in resin, then in bronze and in painted bronze for finally coming back to the initial idea of a real banana.” The work, entitled Comedian, is considered an edition, with a price tag of $120,000. At the time of writing two had already been sold with one museum lined up to purchase another for an incredible $150,000.
Is it contemporary art gone too far or just an elaborate joke along the lines of the emperor’s new clothes on Cattelan’s part? While debates were raging over the authenticity, value, ‘pomposity’ and inherent wall power of the banana another artist decided to cut through all the chat by walking right up to the piece, taking it off the wall, peeling it and eating it. Calling himself the ‘Hungry Artist’, David Datuna claimed his act had been one of performance art, employing what Martin Jay might call the ‘aesthetic alibi’ in order to appease the gallery owners who appeared unimpressed. His comment was, “I love Maurizio Cattelan artwork and I really love this installation. It’s very delicious.”
Photo Credit: @galerieperrotin on Instagram
Following in the footsteps of Banksy’s famous self-shredding painting stunt at Sotheby’s last year, the work has made headlines all over the world, and the video of the performance has been watched over 214,000 times on Instagram, raising both artists’ profiles considerably among the general public. At the same time the work has not actually been damaged or consumed at all, as Cattelan – probably foreseeing the inevitable rotting of the banana – left instructions that “the banana should be replaced as necessary”, offering further evidence that this artwork might indeed be something to do with those new clothes and that emperor, and essentially, conceptual art. According to a spokesman for Cattelan, Datuna “did not destroy the artwork. The banana is the idea.”