"Comedian," Maurizio Cattelan's installation at Art Basel Miami consisting of a single banana duct-taped to a wall, caused quite a stir last week, as it was on sale for $120,000. He actually sold two of them ... but the third wasn't quite as lucky.
Perhaps the most alarming aspect of the installation occurred Saturday, Dec. 5, when a passerby removed the banana from the wall and casually ate it — the duct tape still strapped to its peel.
So, who ate the banana?
It was David Datuna, a Georgian-born American artist from New York.
Datuna posted a video of his eating the high-priced banana to Instagram and called himself the "Hungry Artist." He praised Cattelan's work — adding, lightheartedly, how "delicious" it was.
Katherine Wisniewski, associate director of communications for Cattelan's gallery Perrotin, told TODAY Food that neither the gallery nor the artist plans to press charges against Datuna, as "it was all in good spirits." To note, the banana itself does not represent the value of Cattelan's piece, since it can be replaced for about 70 cents (or 19 cents at Trader Joe's!). The value is proven by a certificate of authenticity that contains exact instructions for installation and authenticates that the work is by Cattelan.
But why is this banana causing such a stir?
Liddy Berman, art market expert and founder of Eleusis Art Advisory, who saw Perrotin's exhibit on Dec. 4, described Cattelan as a kind of "Italian prankster artist" who likes playing with viewers' expectations by altering and even subverting them. Using an object as benign (and potassium-packed!) as a banana is the type of piece, Berman said, that inspires interest and curiosity about art, its meaning, importance and definition.
"This work has definitely generated a major spectacle. It was so popular that crowds were endangering the works nearby and it had to be removed from view at the end of the week," Berman told TODAY. "Whether the reaction is delight, outrage or confusion, the banana has allowed the artist to reach a massive audience and provoked an emotional reaction in many, illustrating the power and reach of art in the modern world."
Cattelan's piece has already reached far beyond the art community and inspired copycats. Popeyes, for example, quickly installed a chicken sandwich version of "Comedian" in a neighboring Miami gallery. And TODAY's Al Roker even spotted an anonymous installation on the fifth floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
According to Berman, the real "Comedian" banana is replaceable, so art collectors who purchased one of its three editions can swap the star of the masterpiece out every week to 10 days.
Sounds like the ideal investment in art and banana bread.