Maurizio Cattelan’s $120,000 Banana Was Ejected From Art Basel Miami Beach After Drawing Unsafe Crowds (and Getting Eaten)

The day after the stunt, the gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin took the artwork down for good a day early.

The crush to see the banana at Art Basel Miami Beach on Saturday. Photo by Andrew Goldstein.

Maurizio Cattelan’s banana sculpture at Art Basel Miami Beach has taken on a life of its own. On Saturday, amid a crush of fairgoers, a performance artist successfully managed to nab, peel, and eat the conceptual fruit duct-taped to the wall of the booth of Perrotin Gallery. The New York-based artist David Datuna said the edible piece of art, priced between $120,000 to $150,000, tasted good, but he grumbled that there was too much tape.

The stunt helped bring about a premature end to the banana’s star turn at the fair. The following day, on Sunday, Perrotin announced that he had to remove the work, cheekily titled Comedian, from the booth for the fair’s final stretch. The banana, one might say, had to split.

“Following recommendations, we removed the installation at 9 a.m. this morning,” the dealer said in a statement. “We would like to warmly thank all those who participated in this memorable adventure.” He noted in an Instagram post that the crowds flocking to see and take selfies with the banana “compromised the safety of the artwork around us, including that of our neighbors.”

A spokesperson for the fair added that the crowds “posed a serious health and safety risk, as well as an access issue, so the work was removed.”

In recent days, the banana has become one of the rare art-world phenomena to break into mainstream culture: it graced the cover of the New York Post, garnered parodies online, and even a copycat installation on the New York subway. For some, it became a symbol of art-world excess and gullibility; for others, a delightful lesson in conceptual art.

Perrotin, Cattelan’s Paris-based dealer, raced back to the fair from Miami airport on Saturday afternoon when he heard about the act of vandalism. With the help of assistant, the gallerist soon restored the Italian artist’s work to the wall of his booth. (The gallerist kept a spare banana in reserve in a back room.) Four Miami Beach police officers stood guard after the incident, the Miami Herald reports. And a rope barrier was added to control the crowds of curious fairgoers as the sculpture’s fame soared.

Datuna, who claimed to be a “hungry artist,” was led away by security but not arrested, the Herald reports. A representative from the gallery told Artnet News that Perrotin would not be pursuing legal action against him.

The Georgia-born artist staged his self-described “performance” at 1:45 p.m. on Saturday during the fair’s popular public day, so many A-list collectors will have missed the commotion. Video of the Datuna’s nonchalant act of appropriation quickly circulated on social media, however.

Two editions of the banana swiftly sold to private collectors, including Sarah Andelman, a founder of the Paris concept store Colette. (It was her first major art purchase, according to the New York Times.) Cattelan and Perrotin then agreed that they would sell the third edition to a museum. Perrotin told Artnet News that two institutions had already expressed interest.

The French gallerist was relaxed about the work’s security ahead of Saturday’s incident, explaining that without the artist’s certificate of authenticity, the banana is no longer a sculpture, and so reverts to being a piece of fruit.

Comedian has a COA [certificate of authenticity] that contains exact instructions for installation and authenticates that the work is by Maurizio Cattelan,” a representative for the gallery added after the incident. “Without a COA, a piece of conceptual artwork is nothing more than its material representation.”

In his goodbye Instagram post marking the end of the display, Perrotin said he never anticipated that the work would become a sensation. “Comedian, with its simple composition, ultimately offered a complex reflection of ourselves,” he wrote.

Additional reporting by Sarah Cascone 

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