When Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan duct-taped a real banana to the wall of the Galerie Perrotin at Art Basel Miami and listed it for a starting price of $120,000 dollars, it was par for the course in the art world.
When Georgian artist David Datuna walked up to the banana, removed it from the wall, and ate it in a piece of unexpected performance art titled “Hungry Artist,” that was somewhat under par for the art world, but Datuna’s fruity performance wasn’t nearly as destructive at it seems.
By the time Datuna got the munchies, Cattelan’s banana piece, titled “Comedian,” had already sold two of its three installations — both of the $120,000 banana pieces went to private collectors, and the third is still up for purchase to a museum for a slightly higher price.
The Galerie Perrotin’s director of museum relations Lucien Terras spoke to the Miami Herald about Datuna’s impact on Comedian, where he’s quoted as clarifying that eating the banana “did not destroy the art work. The banana is the idea.”
The banana is the…OK. Right. Let’s go with that.
The other, more material reason Cattelan’s art piece retains its value even after someone digested the original banana is the nature of Comedian itself — those who purchased the two private installations of the piece paid not for a single banana (and a few inches of duct tape), but for a certificate of authenticity acknowledging that any one taped-up banana in their collection is Comedian.
According to the Herald, that certificate also allows buyers to switch out new bananas as needed, ensuring the continued life of the art piece for as long as they, a person who paid the price of a high-end college education for art fruit, can afford to continuously replace one (1) banana.
As an example of the artistic impermanence of the banana in question, the one currently on display at Art Basel Miami following Datuna’s gastronomic vandalism is a random banana given to gallery director Terras by a sympathetic art fan. After Datuna’s “Hungry Artist” went viral, the unknown fan handed Terras a new banana in what may have been a joke, but quickly became the new star of Cattelan’s show.
It’s worth mentioning that this is not the first time one of Cattelan’s art pieces has gone viral for bizarre reasons. In Sept. 2019, a golden toilet created by the artist was stolen from its display at Blenheim Castle. The toilet, titled America, was valued at $5 million and was fully hooked up to the plumbing. America was formerly on display at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, where visitors were encouraged to poop in it.