Meet the Artist Behind the Banana Art Which Engulfed Miami Art Basel

What a year for Maurizio Cattelan! The Italian artist, who’s best known for his hugely ironic and sometimes provocative sculptures and installations, can’t keep his most valuable and talked about pieces safe from curios incidents that have been happening lately.

The joker behind Comedian ... Maurizio Cattelan. Photograph: Pierpaolo Ferrari/Jacopo Zotti/Guggenheim Museum

Early this October, the news of the grand opening of his major exhibition hosted at the UNESCO World Heritage of Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, was sadly accompanied by the scandal of the theft of one of Cattelan’s most iconic pieces, the 103 kilos of solid gold toilet named “America”, on a loan from the Guggenheim museum in New York.

The participatory art piece was a perfectly functioning golden toilet evaluated for millions of dollars, for which over 100,000 people queued to use it. But it also attracted the interests of some well-orchestrated burglary operation that on September 14th, mysteriously broke into the palace and, completely unnoticed, were not only able to remove it from its allocation, inside Winston Churchill’s cabinet, where it was plumbed in with the building’s pipes, but also to transport it all the way outside the property and drive away completely unbothered.

Fair to say that security was not at its best when the crime was committed; Several arrests have been made since this September, but all, of them have been released under investigation for lack of evidence, and majority now suspect that the toilet has been already melted into pieces and lost forever. The toilet was previously offered as a gift to the American President Donald Trump for his settlement at the White House, an offer that apparently was kindly declined.

But America is not Cattelan’s only work who disappeared under everybody’s eyes. At the 30th edition of the Art Basel fair in Miami, one of the most relevant contemporary art fairs worldwide, Cattelan gave his irreverent contribute by taping a real banana on the wall of the Galerie Perrotin stand. The Gallery, founded in Paris in 1990, is known for following the works of Cattelan among with other superstars of the Contemporary art scene as Murakami, since a very early stage.

Maurizio Cattelan’s Comedian, a banana fixed to a gallery wall with grey duct tape.

It is not a surprise then, that Cattelan’s banana, named “Comedian” was sold within a record time at the price of $120,000. The message behind “Comedian” is aimed to make the public reflect on the value that is given to objects in the daily life, and hundreds of visitors queued up to give this curious installation a proper Mona Lisa treatment, with their ultimate iPhone models front camera ready to pose for the perfect Instagram shot.

Unfortunately, this didn’t last very long, and on December 8th, Georgian performing artist David Datuna, making his way through the crowd, took the banana off the wall and eats it in front of hundreds of astonished faces and cameras. Within a bunch of seconds, the most expensive banana in the world disappeared completely, but did this act really caused a decrease in value of the art piece? Not really. The fruit in fact can be replaced anytime with a new one, thus it seems that Cattelan’s unpredictability struck one more time with his 120k dollars idea, or concept, together with Datuna’s naively rebellious act of feeding art with art.  


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