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A banana duct-taped to a wall sold for $120,000 at Miami’s Art Basel in the last of 2019 and many people felt conflicted about it.
It was the work of Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, and it literally is just a banana duct-taped to a wall, titled “The Comedian.” There are actually three “editions” of the work of art.
People always like to dismiss modern art as simplistic. Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan did make a couple hundred grand by attaching maybe a dollar’s worth of produce to the wall with three pieces of tape from a roll that couldn’t possibly have cost more than 10 bucks.
The Art Gallery also, influenced the audience to buy this art piece. Just a banana and a duct tape.
And, as a piece of art, “The Comedian” actually does have something to say. Emmanuel Perrotin—the founder of Perrotin, the gallery where the work was displayed—told CBS News that the piece is about how the meaning and importance of objects changes depending on the context.
The art world can be ridiculous, and by using an object commonly associated with making clowns slip and fall, Cattelan is pretty explicitly poking fun at how arbitrary art can be sometimes. Also, the visual of a banana duct-taped to a wall is just inherently funny.
It also rocks that some joker spent $120,000 on a banana that will be rotten compost in like, two weeks, tops. The Miami Herald reports that Cattelan informed the buyers that they may replace the banana if they choose. This is incredible. Anybody who drops $120,000—a truly life-changing amount of money for most American families—on rotten fruit is a rich villain who deserves to be scammed.
Here’s the central rub with the banana duct-taped to a wall. It is both a funny critique of the absurdities of art and capitalism, yet it is inherently part of that problem, too. It’s having your cake and eating it too (although maybe “having your banana bread” would be more appropriate here). Art is valuable and artists certainly deserve to be paid for their work. Nobody gets to define what isn’t art, and “The Comedian” is absolutely art. Heck, it might even be powerful art, given how much chatter it has already inspired. “The Comedian” is just laughing along with the people it’s making fun of, and that’s a bummer.
Art Basel Banana is catchy, but it’s not actually the work’s name. Titled Comedian, it’s by Maurizio Cattelan. Cattelan is an Italian artist and an absurdist—in 2016 he replaced a toilet at the Guggenheim with a fully functioning gold one. Yes, anyone with basic motor skills can tape a banana to the wall. But this is conceptual art. So let’s consider the concept. “Back then, Cattelan was thinking of a sculpture that was shaped like a banana,” a statement from the gallery read, via CNN. “Every time he traveled, he brought a banana with him and hung it in his hotel room to find inspiration. He made several models: first in resin, then in bronze, and in painted bronze (before) finally coming back to the initial idea of a real banana.”
Duchampian in nature, the ridiculousness of the whole thing is perhaps what it’s all about. There’s a reason it’s called Comedian, after all, a vaudeville reference to slipping on a peel. “The genius of Cattelan’s banana is that it draws out the mainstream media’s suspicion that all contemporary art is a type of emperor’s new clothes foisted on rich people,” Half Gallery owner and art dealer Bill Powers told me when we saw that work together at Basel. “Was it Warhol who said, ‘Art is whatever you can get away with’? Case in point.”
Whether this qualifies as art, well, that’s up to you! Art is subjective.
Many says Art is defined form different perspective. But the banana and duct tape was useless for many, and hilarious.