Illustration for article titled The conceptual artist who bravely ate a $120,000 banana speaks! [Updated]
Photo: Cindy Ord (Getty Images)

Update, December 10, 2019: David Datuna, the banana-eating performance artist, has spoken! He told reporters at a press conference in New York yesterday afternoon that his piece was called “Hungry Artist” and that he believes it is the first conceptual art piece in history in which another conceptual art piece was eaten.

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“People ask me, ‘You eat banana?’” he said (and NBC News reported). “Physically it was banana but banana is just a tool, usually I eat the concept of that you know?”

The performance also qualified as art because it was premeditated. Datuna said he’d decided Saturday morning that he would eat the banana that comprised Maurizio Cattelan’s piece “Comedian,” but he wasn’t hungry, so he spent two hours exploring Art Basel.

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Datuna also said that he had called friends in advance and asked them to prepare for legal action on his behalf if Galerie Perrotin, which was displaying “Comedian,” threatened retaliation, but the gallery told the New York Post that it has no plans to sue, and it never did, even though Datuna had said at the press conference that a guard had told him he was going to jail. But he was unrepentant and unbowed. “I said I’m ready for anything and you don’t scare me.”

Original post, December 9, 2019: Art is not just a celebration of beauty. Art is life. Art is a force that smashes the frozen sea inside us. Art, ideally, should make its creators and also gallery owners lots and lots of money.

And so it was at Art Basel in Miami Beach last week. At this international art fair that bills itself as “the premier art show of the Americas,” a conceptual artist named Maurizio Cattelan duct-taped three bananas to a gallery wall and told the world it was an art installation called “Comedian.” By the end of the afternoon on opening day last Wednesday, gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin told the Miami Herald, two of the three had sold for $120,000 apiece, plus the cost of replacing the banana once it rotted. “Instructions on how to replace the banana are not included,” the Herald noted.

But then over the weekend, a tragedy occurred. On Saturday at around 1:45 p.m., a performance artist named David Datuna pulled the remaining banana off the wall and ate it.

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The art world was aghast. A precious work of art had been destroyed!

“Gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin was about to head to the airport when he heard that the banana was eaten,” the Herald’s Howard Cohen and Siobhan Morrissey reported. “He darted to the space, clearly upset. A fair goer tried to cheer him up and handed him his own banana.”

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But all is not lost. “He did not destroy the art work,” Lucien Terras, director of museum relations for Galerie Perrotin, told the Herald. “The banana is the idea.” Essentially the collectors who had bought the other two bananas were paying for a certificate of authenticity. Since they have the certificate, they can duct-tape and then eat as many bananas as they want. And surely the same must go for the dealer.

So within 15 minutes, Perrotin and an associate had duct-taped the consolation banana to the wall and the show could go on. An enormous crowd gathered, so large that a neighboring booth had to remove an installation of its own to make room, and a silver rope and four Miami police officers were installed to protect the banana.

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“That banana has been more photographed than the Mona Lisa,” Terras boasted.

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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