Maurizio Cattelan and David Datuna's banana performance at Art Basel Miami is all the rage - but what exactly are we making fun of? Curina team gives you a run-down of what happened with the banana piece and why we handed out 1'000 mini versions of the work on a cold December day in front of the Metropolitan Museum. Lessons on the history of fruit as art, the art market today, and Curina's mission ensues.
Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan reveals Comedian at Art Basel Miami: a real banana duct-taped to the wall.
The same day, two of the three available copies of the piece sold for $120,000 each. Later on, the third one sold for $150,000!
Artist David Datuna eats the duct-taped banana, in an act he described as performance art.
Interestingly, since the banana itself was destroyed in Datuna’s act, the actual object purchased by collectors is the certificate of authenticity signed by Maurizio Cattelan.
Curina decides to take Comedian to people who couldn’t make it to Miami by handing out free banana art outside The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Curina purchases 1000 mini bananas from Chinatown, 3 large duct tapes from a local stationery store (P.S. Thank you fruit store lady for not judging us when we randomly ordered 10 huge boxes of bananas). We roll up our sleeves and get to work.
Curina sets up a table outside the Met with our banana pieces displayed on top. Hundreds of people are given the best New York art worth $120,000, all for free. Revolutionary.
Whether you like Cattelan’s Comedian or not, whether you find it ridiculous, meaningful, or just “meh”, Curina believes that you should not only watch the conversation unfold from afar but be able to participate in it. The amazing interactions we had on the streets with people from all over the world is a testimony of this power. So imagine the kind of discussions that would spring up if each one of us owned and circulated works we adored with a passion.
It’s important to note that Cattelan’s banana piece is not the first time an artist used humor and sarcasm to challenge the common-held definitions of art. After all, if the fact that “anybody could have done it” makes the banana questionable, almost half of MoMA’s collection will have to be thrown away. Because oh, I could have thrown paint at a huge canvas. I definitely could weld some metal bars together.
But that’s not the point, is it?
It has been proven time and again that the audience has a choice between laughing at a new sensation and moving on, or using it to ask questions and take action. It matters less where the work came from than what it does. Art mobilizes.
Yoko Ono, Apple. 1966
Looking back to 1966 when Conceptual Art was just becoming a thing.
Yoko Ono displays Apple at Indica Gallery in London. And yep, you guessed right: it was literally one Granny Smith apple placed atop a plexiglass pedestal. Like any other common apple, it may have rotted away into oblivion - but then John Lennon comes into the picture. Seeing the apple, he says nothing. Just walks up there and takes a bite off of it.
Something tells me that David Datuna was aware of this anecdote when he consumed Cattelan’s banana. Both Lennon and David Datuna engaged with art by breaking the taboo that it should be looked at from a distance, that it should be preserved in the quiet and pristine space within galleries.
Curina sees our 1,000 mini bananas as catalysis for encouraging everyone to personally engage with art the way Lennon and Datuna could - we need to realize that the two figures could take action precisely because they were already influential enough to guarantee its effectiveness. Many people were familiar with Cattelan’s banana piece through articles or memes, but only through such indirect mediums because most of us do not have the privilege to participate in Art Basel. And even fewer of us has the privilege to buy and enjoy works of its like at a whopping $120,000.
If we don’t go beyond sharing memes of Comedian, making fun of it, then soon moving to the next internet sensation, we would only be proving Cattelan right: that we are resigned to letting other people decide what art should be like. Neither Art Basel, Cattelan, Datuna, or even the rich collectors single-handedly created the banana sensation - we, and our attitudes about art, did.
So let’s start now by empowering ourselves, reimagining ourselves as the kind of people who deserve to have a piece of art in our lives.
Curina is willing to help you get there each step of the way.