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Man Eats Banana ‘Artwork’ Taped to Gallery Wall that was to Sell for $120k

Ian Harvey
The banana "artwork" before it was devoured. Photo by Sarah Cascone

A banana “artwork” that was slated to sell for $120,000 has instead been eaten by a starving artist. It’s difficult to define what constitutes great art, but most agree it has something to do with universality, the medium used by the artist, and whether the artwork stands the test of time.

Modern art, like that done by Andy Warhol, was bound by a different set of criteria, and came to be known as “pop art” for its representations of all things modern. His classic “Campbell’s Soup Cans” work is the perfect example. That 1962 work, a combination of techniques, now hangs in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City.

But edible art? That seems to be a whole new category unto itself, and Maurizio Cattelan is a renowned practitioner of it. Some see his work as barrier-breaking and revolutionary. Others view it as silly and trite. But whatever one’s opinion, there’s no doubt everyone agrees that many of his works share one common attribute: they are delicious, and valuable.

That first quality proved to be too much recently at an exhibit of Cattelan’s work in Miami, Florida, during which a patron, David Datuna, seized a piece of art — a banana duct taped to the gallery wall — and ate it up, in front of startled gallery goers. He was soon asked to leave, in the company of security guards, no doubt, and he did so peacefully.

And as seems to happen with every moment in everyone’s life these days, Datuna earned himself a little notoriety by streaming the moment on his Instagram feed and posted the incident to social media.

The work, one in a series of three, was entitled “Comedian” for reasons perhaps only Cattelan can fully explain. There is no arguing their value, however; the other two banana artworks each sold for between 90,000 and 100,000 pounds recently, and came not only with a guide on when and how to change the banana, but with credentials verifying that they were indeed the work of the artist. Each banana artwork is stuck to a board by silver tape. The Gallerie Perrotin, founded in Paris, regularly exhibits, promotes and sell Cattelan’s work. The exhibit was part of a large art fair held in Florida over the past weekend.

According to a spokesman for the gallery, no action will be taken against Datuna, who is a New York-based performance artist. On his social media feed capturing the event, which he entitled “Hungry Artist,” Datuna said, “Art performance by me. I love Maurizio Cattelan artwork, and I really love this installation. It’s very delicious.”

The gallery responded, “It’s all in good spirits. Perrotin is not pressing any legal charges.”

While Cattelan’s work leaves many viewers scratching their heads about what it can possibly mean, others insist his brilliance compares to other geniuses in the modern art landscape like Jeffrey Koons.

It is not the first time Cattelan’s work has been vandalized or tampered with. An 18-carat, golden toilet he sculpted that was recently on exhibit in Britain in the home where Winston Churchill was born, Blenheim Palace, was stolen in September. The toilet, entitled “America” by the Italian artist, is valued at approximately $8 million (USD).

Although several individuals have been arrested in connection with that theft, no sign of the sculpture has turned up, officials say.

The latest “assault” on Cattelan’s work was a much more lighthearted one, and one the artist’s representative says didn’t bother him one bit.  In fact, Emmanuel Perrotin, founder of the Paris gallery, told the Independent, “bananas are a symbol of global trade, a double entendre, as well as a classic device for humour.” And the artist has taken the gobbling up of his banana in good humor indeed, said Perrotin.

Related Article: Million Dollar Artwork Damaged by Overzealous Cleaning Lady

Is the banana artwork really art? Well, much of art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, to paraphrase Shakespeare. And while some may not see any artistic merit in hanging a piece of fruit within a frame on a wall and calling it art, one thing is clear: when a famous artist attaches his name to it, that fruit develops a large monetary value.