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  • Writer's pictureKara Maddox

Slipping on the Peel of Maurizio Cattelan's $120K Banana at Art Basel Miami

This original article was published by WideWalls on December 6, 2019. You can access it here.

This news piece coming to you live from Art Basel in Miami 2019 is bananas! Or rather, one banana. Duct-taped to a wall. Of Galerie Perrotin’s booth. But if you think fruit installed as art is crazy, wait till you hear this: it is priced at $120,000.

Can it get any better (or worse, depending on your point of view)?

Why yes it can! Two out of three of these… err, artworks have already sold during the VIP Preview of world’s biggest art fair, meaning there is only one left – Maurizio Cattelan, the brain behind the work, typically makes art in editions of three.

Needless to say, we are all holding our breaths here, waiting for the last banana to go.

Maurizio Cattelan’s $120,000 Art Basel Banana

According to Galerie Perrotin, the duct-taped banana is the first brand new work by Maurizio Cattelan in an art fair in 15 years. It is entitled Comedian, and it seems to be following the thought behind America, the famous gold toilet people once queued up for at The Guggenheim that is now AWOL – it offers insight into how we perceive and assign worth, and poses the question of what kind of objects we value.

In a statement, Galerie Perrotin said:

The idea of this work came to the artist’s mind a year ago. Back then, Cattelan was thinking of a sculpture that was shaped like a banana. Every time he traveled, 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.

If you are perhaps thinking of buying the remaining example of Cattelan’s banana yourself, you should know that it comes with a proper certificate of authenticity (after all, “this is not a banana”, it’s art), and you can replace the banana when/how you like, since it is eventually going to rot and decompose. Oh, and it’s priced at $150,000.

A Banana Gets Eaten, A Banana Gets Pulled

Because the story of the $120K banana did not get enough traction by now, a performance artist found a way to make some headlines for himself as well.

On Saturday December 7, the New York City-based David Datuna carefully approached Galerie Perrotin’s booth at Art Basel in Miami Beach, took the banana off the wall, peeled it, and then – ate it! Just like that!

He titled his performance Hungry Artist, writing on Instagram: “Art performance by me. I love Maurizio Cattelan artwork and I really love this installation. It’s very delicious. 🙂 ”

In another video posted by Datuna, we see Galerie Perrotin staff approaching him and taking his name, but according to reports they will not press any charges. “It’s all in good spirits,” the spokeswoman said.

On Sunday, December 8, Perrotin also announced that Comedian – the last of the three Cattelan bananas – would be removed from view at Art Basel Miami Beach.

This morning, following recommendations, we removed the installation at 9am. We want to thank the organizers of the fair for their help and continued support. Art Basel collaboratively worked with us to station guards and create uniform lines. However, the installation caused several uncontrollable crowd movements and the placement of the work on our booth compromised the safety of the artwork around us, including that of our neighbors.

Peeling It All Off

Surely, by now we are accustomed to artworks selling for millions (just ask the May/November auctions happening in New York every year) and art becoming a commodity like any other. Add to this that Maurizio Cattelan is contemporary art’s prankster, the guy behind the kneeling Hitler, the monumental middle-finger sculpture outside Milan’s Stock Exchange building, the Pope hit by a meteor.

Comedian doesn’t fall too far from that tree – it is definitely supposed to be ironic, sarcastic, mad, tongue-in-cheek, thought-provoking, you name it. It is asking about values, and worth.

People indeed are ready enough to pay whatever price Cattelan sets for whatever installation he makes. The artist seems to have proved his point – or has he? While the two collectors who cashed $120,000 each for two bananas and a piece of duct tape probably don’t think of it as a lot of money (and judging by what people pay for art these days, it really isn’t), it is still quite a sum going straight into Cattelan’s (and Perrotin’s) pocket.

Nothing wrong with that of course, but then we shall think of this as just another artwork on sale. Perhaps now there is no irony left to it?

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