Banana artwork sold for $120,000—and then someone ate it

The annual Art Basel Miami Beach show always makes headlines for its glamorous parties, celebrity sightings and breakout art stars.

This year, though, there’s one story that’s getting all the attention — that of the $120,000 banana. Officially titled “Comedian” and installed by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, the piece is composed of a banana taped to a wall with duct tape. That is all.

In case you don’t believe me, here’s a photo from Instagram user @isartblog:

Cattelan has a reputation as an absurdist — one of his most famous works is a functioning golden toilet — so it’s a pretty funny statement, right? He even told Artnet News that “the banana is supposed to be a banana,” so we’re not dealing with a René Magritte “ceci n’est pas une pipe” situation here.

Well, the funny statement was swiftly purchased for serious money by art collectors to the tune of $120,000. (The collectors paid for a “certificate of authenticity” and permission to replace the banana as needed.)

But then, on Saturday, “Comedian” was the butt of a rare art-scene double-prank. Another artist, New Yorker David Datuna, calmly walked up to the banana, took it off the wall and ate it.

He called his performance piece “Hungry Artist.”

Datuna’s choice of snack definitely caused a stir. The owner of the gallery that displayed the banana ran to replace it — with, of course, another banana — after it was eaten. Since the original perishable banana was never meant to stay stuck to that particular wall, and the certificates are the items actually being sold, Datuna’s stunt didn’t ruin the piece.

“He did not destroy the art work,” said Lucien Terras, the gallery’s director of museum relations, in the Miami Herald. “The banana is the idea.”

Datuna held a press conference about the banana brouhaha Monday and didn’t express regret for his very expensive snack choice.

“The banana tasted good,” Datuna said. “It tasted like $120,000.”

Datuna said that he didn’t know if he’d face legal consequences for scarfing the banana, but that he’s not worried.

“It’s not vandalism,” he said. “I’m a performance artist and this is my performance.”

Cattelan, for his part, has kept mum about the kerfluffle. Except, perhaps, for a few chuckles on the way to the bank.

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Kathleen St. John

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