On December 7, 2019, David Datuna was admiring the modern and contemporary works of art on display from 200 of the world’s leading galleries at Miami’s Art Basel, when hunger pangs hit. Fortunately for the New York-based artist, there was a ripe banana just waiting to be eaten. The only problem? The tropical fruit stuck to the wall with duct tape was no ordinary banana — it was an art installation that had just been sold by Miami’s Perrotin art gallery for $120,000!
Aptly titled Comedian, the “sculpture” is the first new work debuted by renowned Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan in 15 years. Gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin, charged with selling three editions of the masterpiece and two artist’s proofs —each featuring a single banana — says it offers insights into how we value objects. Cattelan, who often hangs the tropical fruit in his hotel room for inspiration, initially thought of crafting a banana using resin or bronze, but then decided the real fruit would better represent his message.
The art installation’s impressive pedigree, or high price, did not seem to intimidate Datuna. In videos filmed by the stunned and bemused bystanders, the artist is seen calmly ripping the banana off the wall and savoring it, while explaining the act as an “art performance by a hungry artist.”
When asked about his action by Peggy Leboeuf, a partner at Perrotin Gallery, who arrived at the scene just as Datuna was finishing his final bite, he replied, “I am [a] performance artist.” A frustrated-sounding Leboeuf is heard responding, “But you are not supposed to touch the art.” Upon hearing about the incident, Perrotin, who had been on his way to the airport, darted back to see the space where the art had once stood. Fortunately, a visitor offered the gallery owners a banana he had brought to snack on, and by 2:00 pm, just a short 15 minutes after Datuna’s stunt, the fruit had been re-adhered, restoring the masterpiece to its former glory.
However, the hilarious incident drew so many people to see Comedian, that it had to be removed from display on December 8, 2019, the final day of the exhibit. According to the gallery, “The installation caused several uncontrollable crowd movements, and the placement of the work on our booth compromised the safety of the artworks around us, including that of our neighbors.” Fortunately for fans, Perrotin, who has sold all three editions of Comedian for between $120,000 to $150,000 each, announced that the latest buyer plans to donate his copy to a museum.
Lucien Terras, director of museum relations at Perrotin, later explained that consuming the banana did not diminish the integrity of the $120,000 artwork. “He [Datuna] did not destroy the artwork. The banana is the idea,” he explained. The spokesperson says the value of the masterpiece is not in the fruit, but in the certificate of authenticity, which includes exact instructions for installation confirming the work is by Cattelan. “Without a certificate, a conceptual artwork is nothing more than its material representation,” he said.
Though Datuna will not reveal his motive for eating the banana, the artist — best-known for his unique artworks depicting political leaders, celebrities, flags, and cult objects — insists it was not for publicity. “I do many installations around the world. I have enough publicity,” he said. As to what he thought of the expensive fruit? In an interview with MarketWatch, the artist quipped, “Its taste was delicious — not like $120,000, but it was really good.”
Resources: msn.com, theartnewspaper, CNN.com,