High banana drama at Art Basel Miami: At around 1:45pm yesterday, Georgian-born artist David Datuna plucked Maurizio Cattelan’s art installation from the wall and ate it. The incident occurred two days after the Perrotin art gallery sold two editions of “Comedian,” comprised of a banana duct-taped to a wall, to two French collectors for $120,000 a piece. Several museums are bidding for the third edition for $150,000.
“This is an art performance,” declared Datuna as he peeled the overripe banana from the wall, calling the feat “Hungry Artist.” The New York-based artist is known for large-scale mixed-media collages and diptychs of celebrities and political figures.
Peggy Leboeuf, a partner at Perrotin, accosted Datuna after he had already eaten half the banana. “Are you kidding? This is so stupid. This is so stupid,” she exclaimed. Gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin, who was on his way to the airport, rushed to the scene visibly upset, the Miami Herald reports. A fairgoer tried to cheer him up by handing him a new, fresher banana.
Datuna calmly submitted himself for questioning. “This is not for publicity” he insisted. “I do many installations around the world. I have enough publicity.” Whatever his real motivation, Datuna posted three videos of the performance on his Instagram account, which has garnered incrementally more likes than his previous posts.
Cattelan’s absurdist banana is among the most talked about pieces at the annual art fair, which draws around 70,000 visitors to Miami each December. As the art world’s most celebrated prankster, Cattelan’s other winning provocations include the functional 18-carat gold toilet installed at the Guggenheim Museum and a monumental sculpture of a middle finger in front of the Milan Stock Exchange. Perrotin explains that “Comedian” is “a symbol of global trade, a double entendre, as well as a classic device for humor.”
Leboeuf tells the BBC that they’ve reported the incident to the Miami police, but will likely not press charges against Datuna. About 20 minutes after the commotion, the gallery installed a new banana on the wall, noting that Datuna’s brazen act didn’t damage the piece. “He did not destroy the artwork. The banana is the idea,” explained Lucien Terras, the gallery’s director of museum relations. He explained that each edition of Cattelan’s “Comedian” comes with a certificate of authenticity.
Collectors better hold on to that certificate of authenticity. Brooklyn-based artist Joseph Grazi has produced unauthorized replicas of Cattelan’s piece around New York City. His caption on the duct-taped bananas: “The Price of Everything. Free.”