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Comedian (artwork)

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Comedian
A yellow banana attached to a white wall by a piece of silver-colored duct tape
ArtistMaurizio Cattelan
Year2019
Type
Medium
LocationArt Basel, Miami Beach, U.S.

Comedian is a 2019 artwork by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. Created in an edition of three, it appears as a fresh banana affixed to a wall with duct tape. As a work of conceptual art, it consists of a certificate of authenticity with detailed diagrams and instructions for its proper display. Two editions of the piece sold for US$120,000 at Art Basel Miami Beach to significant media attention.

Background and description[edit]

Maurizio Cattelan is an Italian artist known for his tongue-in-cheek art, such as his 2016 creation America, a fully functional golden toilet.[1] He previously used duct tape suspension for A Perfect Day in 1999, fastening the art dealer Massimo De Carlo to a gallery wall.[2][3] At the 2019 Foire Internationale d'Art Contemporain art fair in Paris, the American conceptual interventionist Meth Fountain showed a half-eaten croissant affixed to the wall, predating Comedian by several months.[4]

Comedian is a piece consisting of a fresh banana duct taped to a wall.[5] Cattelan purchased the bananas at a Miami grocery store for an estimated 30 cents.[6] The work includes a certificate of authenticity along with detailed instructions for its proper display, intended for its owner to use when displaying the work. Both the banana and the duct tape can be replaced as needed; the physical representation of Comedian is not the work itself.[7] It was Cattelan's first artwork for a fair in over 15 years.[8] The piece was compared to Andy Warhol's 1967 pop art fruit.[9] Emmanuel Perrotin, the gallerist exhibiting the work, stated Comedian is "a symbol of global trade, a double entendre, as well as a classic device for humor".[10]

Reception[edit]

Comedian created controversy, with some writers, such as Robin Pogrebin, questioning if it was even art.[11][12] The Guardian called Comedian a "questionably genius work. ... It calls to mind the old Lucile Bluth Arrested Development gag about rich people not knowing the price of a banana."[6] Artnet wrote the piece was one of the worst of the week, and that Cattelan "somehow duped a group of collectors into buying bananas duct-taped to walls for $120,000 a pop. Seriously."[13] USA Today deadpanned, "This piece of art is bananas – literally."[14] Newsweek called it "humorous minimalist artwork",[15] while ARTnews asked whether the piece was cynical or thrilling.[16] CBS News reported, "It may be the most talked-about artwork at this year's event."[17] On December 13, the New York Post featured Comedian on its cover.[18] In his 2021 book The Devil in the Gallery, Noah Charney stated, "Comedian is neither beautiful nor does it exhibit skill, so it represents the Duchampian path."[19] In his book Beauty (and the Banana), author Brian C. Nixon stated, "To say the least, Comedian is a commentary on the wild world of contemporary art, communicating how culture understands, interprets, and engages with the arts."[20]

Purchases[edit]

The piece was released in an edition of three; two were purchased for $120,000 USD at Art Basel.[21] The selling price garnered significant media attention. One edition was purchased by Sarah Andelman, a founder of Colette.[22] Another edition was sold to Billy and Beatrice Cox, who stated:

We are acutely aware of the blatant absurdity of the fact that Comedian is an otherwise inexpensive and perishable piece of produce and a couple of inches of duct tape. When we saw the public debate sparked about art and our society, we decided to purchase it. We knew we were taking a risk, but ultimately we sense that Cattelan’s banana will become an iconic historical object.[23]

In August 2020 artist Damien Hirst complained to the media that he was unable to purchase the piece and had offered to trade any of his own works for it with Cattelan; Cattelan replied that the piece had sold out.[24][25] The following month Comedian was donated to the Guggenheim Museum, with instructions and diagrams for its installation and display.[7]

Intervention[edit]

After its sale, while still on exhibit at Art Basel, Georgian performance artist David Datuna ate the piece in an intervention he called Hungry Artist. The banana was replaced later that day.[26][27] No legal action was taken against him, though he was asked to leave the fair.[28] Datuna stated, "What we perceive as materialism is nothing but social conditioning. Any meaningful interaction with an object could turn it to art. I am a hungry artist, and I am hungry for new interactions."[29]

Interpretations[edit]

Following a flurry of publicity, a number of commentators satirized or interpreted Comedian. Designer Sebastian ErraZuriz taped a dildo to a wall with duct tape and listed it for sale for $12,000.[30] Cryptocurrency artist CryptoGraffiti created The Commodity, "which instructed collectors to find and claim a banana with a bitcoin key address carved into it".[4] Actress Brooke Shields taped a banana to her forehead with blue tape and posted it to Instagram with the caption, "An expensive selfie".[31] Designer Simon Porte Jacquemus "created a merch opportunity when posting a duct-taped yellow version of [his] micro Le Chiquito bag".[31] Popeyes Chicken joined with the San Paul Gallery Urban Art in Miami to create The Sandwich, a chicken sandwich taped to a white wall with duct tape; it was listed at $120,003.99 and "became a viral sensation in its own right".[4][32] Multiple other brands followed suit, including the New York Mets, Burger King, Hostess, Perrier, Carrefour, Sweetgreen, Absolut, and Bobbi Brown.[33]

Removal[edit]

In the morning on Sunday, December 8, 2019, Comedian was removed from the fair. The curators removed the piece because they were afraid other art would be damaged by queuing crowds.[34] After the removal, the gallery released the following statement:

Comedian, with its simple composition, ultimately offered a complex reflection of ourselves. We would like to warmly thank all those who participated in this memorable adventure, as well as to our colleagues. We sincerely apologize to all the visitors of the fair who today will not be able to participate in Comedian.[35]

After the removal, Perrotin created a social media account dedicated to the piece.[36] One of the walls featuring the piece was later vandalized with the text "Epstien didn't kill himself" [sic] in lipstick, which was soon covered by the art fair.[37]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sutton, Benjamin (December 4, 2019). "Maurizio Cattelan's duct-taped banana work sold during Art Basel in Miami Beach's VIP preview". Artsy. Archived from the original on December 7, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  2. ^ Jason Farago (December 8, 2019). "A (Grudging) Defense of the $120,000 Banana". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 8, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  3. ^ "A Perfect Day - Maurizio Cattelan (1999)". Perrotin. February 18, 2015. Archived from the original on December 10, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Cascone, Sarah (December 9, 2019). "How the Unhinged Reaction to Maurizio Cattelan's Banana Revealed the Thin Line Between the Art World and Total Anarchy". Artnet. Archived from the original on December 11, 2019. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  5. ^ "Maurizio Cattelan's 'Comedian,' Explained: Here's Everything We Published on the Viral Banana Art, All in One Place". Artnet. December 17, 2019. Archived from the original on December 20, 2021. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  6. ^ a b O'Neil, Luke (December 6, 2019). "One banana, what could it cost? $120,000 – if it's art". The Guardian. Archived from the original on December 30, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  7. ^ a b "Cattelan's notorious banana finds a home at the Guggenheim". The Art Newspaper. September 18, 2021. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  8. ^ Harris, Gareth (December 4, 2019). "Maurizio Cattelan presents first new work for a fair in 15 years—and it is a banana priced at $120,000". The Art Newspaper. Archived from the original on December 4, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  9. ^ Chin, Mallory (December 5, 2019). "Bananas Duct-Taped to Wall Selling for $120K USD at Art Basel". Hype Beast. Archived from the original on December 6, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  10. ^ Sullivan, Rory (December 6, 2019). "A-peeling offer? Duct-taped banana work selling for $120,000 at Art Basel Miami". CNN. Archived from the original on December 5, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  11. ^ "maurizio cattelan's comedian, a duct taped-banana sells for $120.000 at art basel in miami". Design Bloom. December 7, 2019. Archived from the original on December 7, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  12. ^ Pogrebin, Robin (December 6, 2019). "That Banana on the Wall? At Art Basel Miami It'll Cost You $120,000". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 6, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  13. ^ Goldstein, Caroline (December 6, 2019). "From the Turner Prize Twist to Maurizio Cattelan's Apeel-ing Bananas: The Best and Worst of the Art World This Week". Artnet. Archived from the original on December 7, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  14. ^ Moniuszko, Sara M. (December 5, 2019). "A duct-taped banana art work is selling for $120,000 at Art Basel in Miami". USA Today. Archived from the original on December 6, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  15. ^ Ahmed, Tufayel (December 5, 2019). "Banana Duct-Taped to a Wall Sells for $120,000 at Art Basel Miami". NewsWeek. Archived from the original on December 6, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  16. ^ Russeth, Andrew (December 5, 2019). "Is Maurizio Cattelan's $120,000 Banana Sculpture a Cynical Sign of the Times or a Thrilling Artwork? Yes!". ARTnews. Archived from the original on December 6, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  17. ^ Larnaud, Natacha (December 6, 2019). "A banana duct-taped to a wall was sold for $120,000 at Art Basel Miami". CBS News. Archived from the original on December 6, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  18. ^ Bishara, Hakim (December 9, 2019). ""It Tasted Like $120,000," Says Artist Who Ate Maurizio Cattelan's Infamous Banana Artwork". Hyperallergic. Archived from the original on December 10, 2019. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  19. ^ Charney, Noah (2021). "2". The Devil in the Gallery. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 52. ISBN 9781538138656.
  20. ^ Nixon, Brian C. (2021). Beauty (and the Banana). Wipf and Stock Publishers. ISBN 9781725285347.
  21. ^ Cascone, Sarah (December 4, 2019). "Maurizio Cattelan Is Taping Bananas to a Wall at Art Basel Miami Beach and Selling Them for $120,000 Each". Artnet. Archived from the original on December 7, 2019. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  22. ^ Pes, Javier (December 8, 2019). "Maurizio Cattelan's $120,000 Banana Was Ejected From Art Basel Miami Beach After Drawing Unsafe Crowds (and Getting Eaten)". Artnet. Archived from the original on December 9, 2019. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  23. ^ Siegler, Mara; Coleman, Oli (December 9, 2019). "Billy and Beatrice Cox, new owners of $120K Art Basel banana, speak out". Page Six. Archived from the original on December 10, 2019. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  24. ^ Dazed (August 21, 2020). "Damien Hirst tries to buy Maurizio Cattelan's banana, told no, makes one". Dazed. Archived from the original on August 22, 2020. Retrieved August 26, 2020.
  25. ^ Shaw, Anny (August 19, 2020). "Damien Hirst offers to swap any work for viral duct-tape banana—but Maurizio Cattelan says no". The Art Newspaper. Archived from the original on January 13, 2022. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  26. ^ Cohen, Howard; Morrissey, Siobhan (December 7, 2019). "Someone ate the $120,000 banana at Art Basel. Some quick thinking saved the day". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on February 5, 2020. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  27. ^ Darby, Luke (December 8, 2019). "Some Guy Ate That $120,000 Art Basel Banana". GQ. Archived from the original on December 8, 2019. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  28. ^ AFP (December 8, 2019). "Man eats $120,000 piece of art — a banana taped to wall". Times of Israel. Archived from the original on December 25, 2019. Retrieved December 25, 2019.
  29. ^ Holmes, Helen (February 20, 2020). "The Artist Who Ate the Art Basel Banana Has a New Show Opening in New York". Observer. Archived from the original on April 15, 2021. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  30. ^ Gibson, Eleanor (December 9, 2019). "Maurizio Cattelan's $120,000 banana removed from display". de zeen. Archived from the original on December 10, 2019. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  31. ^ a b Ilchi, Layla (December 10, 2019). "The $120,000 Art Banana Gets the Meme Treatment". WWD. Archived from the original on December 11, 2019. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  32. ^ Zhang, Jenny G. (December 10, 2019). "Popeyes's Riff on the Art Basel Banana Is a $120,003.99 Duct-Taped Chicken Sandwich". Eater. Archived from the original on December 11, 2019. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
  33. ^ Liffreing, Ilyse (December 10, 2019). "Brands Are Trying to One-Up the Art Basel Banana". Ad Age. Archived from the original on December 10, 2019. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
  34. ^ Stiernberg, Bonnie (December 8, 2019). "The $120,000 Art Basel Banana Has Been Taken Down". Inside Hook. Archived from the original on December 8, 2019. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  35. ^ Pogrebin, Robin (December 8, 2019). "Banana Splits: Spoiled by Its Own Success, the $120,000 Fruit Is Gone". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 15, 2019. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  36. ^ Taylor, Elise (December 10, 2019). "The $120,000 Art Basel Banana, Explained". Vogue. Archived from the original on December 11, 2019. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  37. ^ Dickson, EJ (December 9, 2019). "Art Basel Miami: 'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' and the $120,000 Banana". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 25, 2019.

External links[edit]