Made with a banana duct-taped to a wall, The Comedian, the latest installation by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, has sparked the debate on the nature of art — especially after the fruit was eaten by performance artist David Datuna. Carla Passino explains more.
The demise of a new installation by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan has thrown open the question of what makes an object a work of art.
Cattelan, the same man behind the fully-functioning, 18-carat gold loo that was stolen from Blenheim Palace earlier this year, is known for his controversial pieces, which upend the very concept of art. His latest work, titled The Comedian and presented by international gallery Perrotin at the Art Basel exhibition in Miami last week, consisted of a banana duct-taped to a wall.
The idea behind it, according to the gallerists, was to explore ‘how we assign worth and what kind of objects we value’. The past tense is de rigueur, though, because the installation, which comes in three copies, two of which have already been sold to collectors for $120,000 (about £90,000), met an untimely end when performance artist David Datuna took the fruit from the wall, peeled it and gulped it down in a couple of mouthfuls.
‘Art performance by me,’ he posted on Instagram. ‘I love Maurizio Cattelan artwork and I really love this installation. It’s very delicious.’
A member of the Perrotin staff was understandably incensed, but, to be fair to Datuna, the banana would have gone rotten at some stage anyway, so he only saved it from the bin (something that Cattelan had already anticipated by providing collectors with a certificate of authenticity for his artwork and instructions on how to replace the fruit with a fresh one).
But the very nature of the installation — which combines the mundane elements of Tracey Emin’s My Bed to the ephemeral quality of Banksy’s self-destructing painting — questions our very perception of art. Is a work still ‘art’ if it’s just made of everyday objects? If it doesn’t last? If it’s something anyone could replicate—and it has sparked many copycats, some of which are nothing short of hilarious—except that they didn’t come up with the idea in the first place?
Reactions among the public and art critics alike are certainly split, with some dismissing it as wacky and ludicrous, while others, like The New York Times’ critic, Jason Farago, (grudgingly) defending it as an example of ‘barbs at art from inside the art world’ (while simultaneously dismissing both Banksy and Datuna).
Whatever you think of it, though, the taped banana captured our collective imagination. The Perrotin Gallery had to remove it from their Art Basel booth a day before the closing of the fair because it had caused ‘several uncontrollable crowd movements.’
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