A performance artist ate the $120k Art Basel banana on the wall

You probably heard about the $120,000 selling price for the banana duct-taped to a white wall at an art gallery in Miami. The work, “Comedian,” was created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, and was purchased by a private collector. The lucky owner probably wasn’t planning on having their new prized possession eaten:

Around 1:45 p.m. local time on Saturday afternoon, performance artist David Datuna shocked Art Basel Miami Beach attendees by taking a new work from Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan — which consists of a banana fastened to a wall with duct-tape — and eating it…

Labeling the act an “art performance” called “Hungry Artist,” Datuna can be seen walking up to the work, removing the duct-tape and proceeding to eat the fruit in a video posted to the artist’s Instagram page.

“I love Maurizio Cattelan artwork and I really love this installation. It’s very delicious,” Datuna captioned a series of posts documenting the incident.

However, it turns out that even by literally eating the artwork, Datuna’s actions did nothing to change its value.

“He did not destroy the artwork,” gallery spokesman Lucien Terras told The Miami Herald, noting that the banana was always meant to be replaced when necessary. The outlet also noted that the work came with a certificate of authenticity, which was what collectors were really purchasing.

[From People]

I sighed when I saw the original story, because no one can convince me that a banana duct-taped to a wall should be worth $120,000. I don’t care who put it there, or what their credentials are, and I have a deep appreciation for art, even if it’s not to my taste. But this is just a bridge too far for me. So, I laughed when I saw this story. I guess it’s great that the museum (and artist) planned for this contingency by replacing the banana. Eventually the banana would rot, so that makes sense, I guess.

The story doesn’t end there. After David Datuna helped himself to the banana and the banana was replaced and then removed, another artist scrawled the misspelled meme “Epstien didn’t kill himself” in lipstick on the wall where it used to be.

Identified as 46-year-old Roderick Webber from Massachusetts, the artist managed to scrawl the phrase “Epstien [sic] didn’t kill himself” in red lipstick before being arrested on charges of criminal mischief. In a video taken by an onlooker, he can be heard saying, “This is the gallery where anyone can do art, right?,” just before a security guard hauled him away.

On Saturday, performance artist David Datuna ate the banana, to the horror of well-heeled onlookers. (Unlike Webber, Datuna was not arrested.) At first, representatives for the gallery tried to appear unruffled, simply replacing the banana with another one. (The original banana came with a certificate of authenticity, as well as specific staging instructions for exhibition.)

Yet the incident apparently prompted the gallery to make the decision on Sunday to remove the banana altogether. “This morning, following recommendations, we removed the installation at 9 a.m.,” the gallery’s statement said in a statement, adding that “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.” Apparently undeterred by the absence of the infamous banana, Webber scrawled his statement about Jeffrey Epstein just a few hours later.

[From Rolling Stone]

I’m completely unsurprised that someone would decide to paint/write that message in a gallery, because, at this point, why not? It’s another layer of bizarreness in this story of what is likely the World’s Most Expensive Banana, Now Eaten. David Datuna wasn’t arrested or cited, probably because the banana was going to be replaced anyway. Gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin was amused by the whole situation and shared a photo of himself standing next to a banana that he’d taped to the wall of the airplane that he was in en route to Berlin (after he’d done his due diligence and taped the second banana to the wall in the gallery). (Never a sentence I thought I’d type.)

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33 Responses to “A performance artist ate the $120k Art Basel banana on the wall”

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  1. Lucy says:

    Yeah, right, a nana taped to a wall is art.

  2. I'm With The Band says:

    I’m gonna stick a band aid on wall of the Louvre, name it ‘Plaster of Paris’, and call it “art” *insert massive eyeroll here*.

    The way he ate that banana was more artistic than the pretentious and wanky “art” itself. I loved it!

    • Lucy says:

      I’ll buy it for a $1.20🤣

    • SM says:

      I have to agree. Stupid beyond comprehension. Banana on the wall is not art and people who feel like they have too much money can find a million other ways to throw them away. Also how does that even work? Will the artist come every several days and replace the rotting banana with the new one? Or does this art comes with a box of bananas?

    • a reader says:

      I laughed SO HARD over Datuna eating that banana!!!

      I have quite a few friends down at Basel right now (some artists and a few musicians) and every single one of them has posted something on their story mocking the banana art installation. Apparently most folks at Basel are taking the banana thing as a giant joke, which is exactly what it is.

  3. DenG says:

    I live with 3 canine artists that have created priceless artistry. I won’t exploit their exquisite craftmanship.

  4. Purplehazeforever says:

    A banana taped to a wall is not art. My boyfriend is an artist. I understand why he gets so upset by this…he can’t see pieces of art for $150.00 & people by stuff like this for $120,000?

  5. 10KTurtle says:

    I would title this article “Why I Will Never Appreciate Art: Reason #116.” I’m surprised Alice Walton didn’t buy it and hang it on the wall next to her $1.2 million pile of gross green candy at Crystal Bridges.

  6. Lucy says:

    A banana taped to a wall is NOT art. It’s nonsense. These people shouldn’t be given any attention. These days any idiot can call himself an artist these days and there will be an equally stupid fool willing to pay for it.

  7. smcollins says:

    I’m sorry, what? Am I hallucinating or did I actually just read that a banana taped to a wall sold for $120k? Another fine example of people having more money than brains. Wow.

  8. Betsy says:

    That banana piece makes me see red. Contemporary high art and its prices has always been a bit of a farce, but at least there’s an object to show for it, something created, effort, skill – here you have artist intent and that’s it. We have children trapped in cages, women’s rights being eroded AGAIN, the GOP is just criminals, massive income inequality (and the billionaires’ response is to have a billionaire run wasting millions rather than possibly have to pay their fair share)….. and someone (three someones, wasn’t it? I think there were three bananas) spent over a hundred grand TO BUY A PIECE OF DUCT TAPE.

    If there was less inequality, I wouldn’t care what the super wealthy spend their money on. But there is immense inequality and this money could have wiped someone’s medical debt. Or fed a school district’s poorer kids. Or paid off the student loans of one of those unicorn medical students who made it up from a poor family.

    120K isn’t so much. But the optics are so incredibly toxic.

    • Lillian says:

      I agree with you, and/but generally try to remember some wealthy folks give very generously while also indulging- but you’re absolutely right that now is not the time for that crap consumerism, so much so that it does amount to a negative political statement made by the purchasers (in my opinion). “Food art” is always a slap in the face to someone. I guess amongst other things this was his takedown of that (i hope). Cattelan enjoys his jokes; no real collector surely believes he needs the money to continue his practice. Although I suppose he sure made a point about the apathy of priveledge. So, goal accomplished, I guess.

  9. Sean says:

    I always suspect ridiculous attempts at “art” such as a banana taped to the wall are really just a money laundering scheme. Think about it, a small group of “experts” decide how much something is worth, creating obscene amounts of wealth out of thin air. The “art” is sold as a pretense for transferring large amounts of money between different parties, often from different countries.

    The same often goes for horrible movies that are bankrolled by Chinese or Eastern Europe companies.

    • Lucy says:

      I think you may have a point there. Lots of shady people hanging around Art Basel who don’t appear to be true art coinnosseurs in the classical sense, just there for the publicity and parties, and maybe like you say – move some money around under the guise of fancy banana art.

    • Ainsley7 says:

      It’s really the only explanation. I mean, they paid 120k for a certificate of authenticity for “art” that won’t exist for long. You can only replace the banana so many times before the tape no longer sticks. If you replace the tape then you have nothing left from the original piece and it’s really just a reproduction. So, the certificate is meaningless.

    • Nocturne says:

      The art world has always been shady as hell. Owning high value art is a perfect way to transport huge amounts of money legally with very few checks. If you have a three hundred million dollar old masters painting you can use it as currency for all kinds of shady dealings with no paper trail in the usual sense.

      Also, high value art is used for shady tax purposes as well. Since art and art valuation is subjective, the owner can shop around for various valuations to suit their purposes. If they get a higher valuation they can then donate the painting and get huge tax rebates on the donation, or if theh get a lower valuation they can claim it as a loss on their taxes.

  10. Originaltessa says:

    I’ve seen this story everywhere and it’s really starting to infuriate me. Not it being posted, just the fact that it exists. It’s a banana. Like real estate, art should have to appraise. A banana is about 65cents. The end.

  11. Jerusha says:

    Well, it’s certainly nothing new. I put it in the same category as Yoko Ono’s “art.” People in burlap bags, an eight hour film of people’s butts and other ridiculous crap. These people are con artists, not real artists. There’s always someone who thinks they’re so avant garde to buy that stuff.

    • BeanieBean says:

      I went to a retrospective of Yoko’s art at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art about 15 years ago. Gotta say, in the aggregate, I love her work. I left the exhibit smiling.

      • Jerusha says:

        Different strokes, I guess.

      • Lillian says:

        Ones like “My mommy is beautiful” and mend piece/promise piece where people repair broken vessels together as a practice of healing and community are SO sweet 🙂 I’d love to see a retrospective.

  12. SequinedHeart says:

    I don’t know for sure but can we agree this was set up BY the original banana bs artist as a publicity stunt…?
    Ughhh I went to art school and I hate this type of “art”. It always annoyed me and made me think that snobby elitist art peeps were just laughing at non art people by trying to confuse them, like is there some hidden message? No it’s just a damn piece of fruit stuck to the wall. It’s lazy and lacks talent.

    • Amy Too says:

      It could be a publicity stunt since nothing happened to the “performance artist” who came in and destroyed the art by eating the banana. Yet they arrested the person who wrote out “Epstein didn’t kill himself,” so we know that the gallery will have people arrested when they want.

  13. Mignionette says:

    Lol – another case of the Emperor’s new clothes :p

  14. Ana says:

    The banana-eating guy looks like President Zellensky. So, this is peak 2019 I guess.

  15. ME says:

    If you have the kind of money where you can spend THAT much on a f*cking banana taped to a wall, you should be ashamed of yourself. Do you know that could have paid someone’s f*cking tuition or medical bills? So gross. I refuse to believe this is true, I’m just going to assume it was just one big publicity stunt.

  16. BeanieBean says:

    I’m reminded of that piece by Banksy that self-shredded after auction. I’m liking that whole concept of money-laundering for this kind of thing. Interesting perspective.

  17. This is just an interesting form of money laundering. A second and third “edition” have also sold, the second also for $120k though I’ve read upwards of $150k for the third edition.

    • adastraperaspera says:

      Absolutely. You can find lots of articles online that detail how the art market has become an unwitting (witting?) partner of money launderers.

  18. Jillybean says:

    Ohhhh all the reaction and disgust and laughter about this is exactly what the artist is going for people!!!

    Art is supposed to cause reaction!!

    • Eleonor says:

      This, not to talk about all the people taking selfies in front of it.
      I think he is making a point.