Artist Maurizio Cattelan's bananas duct-taped to a wall are the standout installation from this year's Art Basel.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated December 09, 2019
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The artist Joseph Kosuth once opined, "Art is the definition of art." This reflexive statement is open for interpretation, but it implies that art is whatever art is created. It's a concept that empowers the "artist" because where previously art might have been judged by skill or technique, modern art can at times simply be a battle of wills: Art is what an artist can convince the world is art.

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In the past week, we've seen this proven true twice… with the same "work" of art. On Friday, I wrote about Comedian—a piece debuted at Art Basel in Miami from artist Maurizio Cattelan which was literally a banana duct-taped to a wall. For the vast majority of people on Earth, taping fruit to a wall would be a worthless endeavor, but Cattelan's works regularly sell for seven figures, so when he does it, the result is priced at $120,000. Unsurprisingly, he quickly created two more "editions" of this work. (Maybe he wanted a vacation home.)

But on Saturday, things got even more absurd: David Datuna—a New York-based artist—went to the Perrotin gallery where Cattelan's banana was on display, pulled it from the wall, and promptly began eating it. "Hungry artist," he quipped—which is also what he entitled this "art performance." "I love Maurizio Cattelan artwork and I really love this installation," he wrote on Instagram. "It's very delicious [smiley face emoji]." During his actual performance, he added another joke, "$150,000? Tasting good." The name of Cattelan's work was Comedian after all.

Datuna's performance was apparently not prescheduled, and Peggy Leboeuf—a partner at the gallery who was the first to approach Datuna—appeared genuinely shocked, asking, "Are you kidding?" in video footage from the BBC.

Again, for the vast majority of people on Earth, destroying a piece of artwork valued six-figures would likely lead to our arrest, but Datuna's artistic cred is apparently strong enough to keep him out of a squad car. "He was not arrested," Leboeuf stated. "But we asked him to leave the booth and to leave the fair. And we have his contact and everything, so we can go further, but I don't think we will."

Speaking to the Miami Herald, Lucien Terras, director of museum relations for Perrotin, stated, "He did not destroy the art work. The banana is the idea." Terras then clarified that clearly the banana itself would not last forever; instead, the buyer is primarily getting a certificate of authenticity which is the lasting proof of purchase.

Thankfully, since the banana is just a banana, a new banana was duct-taped back to the wall, and extra security was reportedly called in to make sure this one wasn't consumed. I guess you could say the art world has gone bananas—which apparently is good for publicity.