Hungry Visitor Eats $120,000 Banana "Sculpture" At Miami's Art Basel

By

CCSS 586 Words 4-Minute Listen
Emmanuel Perrotin shows off "Comedian," the first piece by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan in 15 years (Credit: Perrotin Gallery)

On December 7, 2019, David Datuna was admiring the modern and contemporary works of art on display from 200 of the world's leading galleries at Miami's Art Basel, when hunger pangs hit. Fortunately for the New York-based artist, there was a ripe banana just waiting to be eaten. The only problem? The tropical fruit stuck to the wall with duct tape was no ordinary banana — it was an art installation that had just been sold by Perrotin, an international art gallery, for $120,000!

Aptly titled Comedian, the "sculpture" is the first new work debuted by renowned Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan in 15 years. Gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin, charged with selling three editions of the masterpiece and two artist's proofs —each featuring a single banana — says it offers insights into how we value objects. Cattelan, who often hangs the tropical fruit in his hotel room for inspiration, initially thought of crafting a banana using resin or bronze, but then decided the real fruit would better represent his message.

New York-based artist David Datuna stunned the world by eating the $120,000 banana (Credit: David Datuna/Instagram)

The art installation's impressive pedigree, or high price, did not seem to intimidate Datuna. In videos filmed by the stunned and bemused bystanders, the artist is seen calmly ripping the banana off the wall and savoring it, while explaining the act as an "art performance by a hungry artist."

When asked about his action by Peggy Leboeuf, a partner at Perrotin Gallery, who arrived at the scene just as Datuna was finishing his final bite, he replied, "I am [a] performance artist." A frustrated-sounding Leboeuf is heard responding, "But you are not supposed to touch the art." Upon hearing about the incident, Perrotin, who had been on his way to the airport, darted back to see the space where the art had once stood. Fortunately, a visitor offered the gallery owners a banana he had brought to snack on, and by 2:00 pm, just a short 15 minutes after Datuna's stunt, the fruit had been re-adhered, restoring the masterpiece to its former glory.

However, the hilarious incident drew so many people to see Comedian that it had to be removed from display on December 8, 2019, the final day of the exhibit. According to the gallery, “The installation caused several uncontrollable crowd movements, and the placement of the work on our booth compromised the safety of the artworks around us, including that of our neighbors." Fortunately for fans, Perrotin, who has sold all three editions of Comedian for between $120,000 to $150,000 each, announced that the latest buyer plans to donate his copy to a museum.

Perrotin Gallery has sold three editions of "Comedian" (Credit: Perrotin Gallery)

Lucien Terras, director of museum relations at Perrotin, later explained that consuming the banana did not diminish the integrity of the $120,000 artwork. “He [Datuna] did not destroy the artwork. The banana is the idea,” he explained. The spokesperson says the value of the masterpiece is not in the fruit, but in the certificate of authenticity, which includes exact instructions for its installation and confirms the work is by Cattelan. “Without a certificate, a conceptual artwork is nothing more than its material representation," he said.

Though Datuna will not reveal his motive for eating the banana, the artist — best known for his unique artworks depicting political leaders, celebrities, flags, and cult objects — insists it was not for publicity. “I do many installations around the world. I have enough publicity," he said. As to what he thought of the expensive fruit? In an interview with MarketWatch, the artist quipped, “Its taste was delicious — not like $120,000, but it was really good.”

Resources: msn.com, theartnewspaper, CNN.com,

Get the Workbook for this article!

Workbook contains: Article, Reading Comprehension, Critical Thinking Questions, Vocabulary in Context (+ answers), Multiple Choice Quiz (+ answers), Parts of Speech Quiz (+ answers), Vocabulary Game (+ answers)
Cite Article
435 Comments
  • fridathe13thfan
    fridathe13thfanMonday, December 7, 2020 at 11:14 am
    the banana looks real and cheap for $120,000
    • blue_fox_740
      blue_fox_740Thursday, November 19, 2020 at 7:57 am
      wow he just took the banana off the wall and ate it is he going to get in trouble?
      • huyseave
        huyseaveThursday, November 19, 2020 at 7:52 am
        How is a banana so cool and so expansive just for a tape on a wall so weird?
        • galaxy52
          galaxy52Saturday, December 5, 2020 at 4:16 pm
          I know! 🍌 I don't get $120,000 for sticking fruit on the wall!
          • golden_rose
            golden_roseThursday, December 3, 2020 at 11:50 am
            Yeah, that's just, like, so~ weird.
          • piggyfan
            piggyfanThursday, November 19, 2020 at 6:34 am
            rip banana.....
            • kotlcfitzphie12
              kotlcfitzphie12Saturday, November 14, 2020 at 10:21 am
              This is so funny!
              • meganplaysfanio
                meganplaysfanioFriday, November 13, 2020 at 12:13 pm
                I wish I can make some money by just putting food.on a wall
                • earthling
                  earthlingWednesday, January 13, 2021 at 1:58 pm
                  Wow, same.
                  • galaxy52
                    galaxy52Saturday, December 5, 2020 at 4:15 pm
                    I know right
                    • golden_rose
                      golden_roseThursday, December 3, 2020 at 11:51 am
                      You'll be a millionaire in a week if you had that job!
                      • kotlcfitzphie12
                        kotlcfitzphie12Saturday, November 14, 2020 at 10:21 am
                        Yeah! I agree
                      • fridathe13thfan
                        fridathe13thfanFriday, November 13, 2020 at 7:17 am
                        thats not real art
                        • ocean1010
                          ocean1010Thursday, October 15, 2020 at 10:41 am
                          that funny
                          • turtle_man24
                            turtle_man24Friday, October 9, 2020 at 7:44 am
                            its taped to the wall
                            • speedy14239
                              speedy14239Tuesday, October 6, 2020 at 11:08 am
                              I love bananas.
                              • heyheygirl
                                heyheygirlSaturday, December 5, 2020 at 4:38 pm
                                I don't really like bananas and he probably got in trouble