Long before there was Maurizio Cattelan and his $120,000 banana duct-taped to a wall, there was Andy Warhol and a whole bunch of bananas. And they both claimed them as art.
Like everyone else in the universe, I have been chortling over Cattelan’s “Comedian” which created such a sensation, if that is the correct word, at the Miami Basel earlier this month.
“Miami Basel is literally such a joke,” wrote one friend.
“It’s a party,” responded another, who actually lives in Miami.
Two of the three available copies of the banana with duct tape were sold. I don’t know which one artist David Datuna ate when he stole into the gallery and upstaged Cattelan by pulling the banana off the wall and eating it.
He declared his act as performance art and titled it “Hungry Artist.” I suppose a video will be for sale at some outrageous price. Maybe it is already.
Fortunately for Cattelan and his gallery, there is no shortage of bananas in Miami. He went out to a market, bought a fresh one, and taped it up. Which is presumably what the buyers will have to do from time to time — like every three days or so if their bananas are as perishable as mine.
The difference is that Cattelan has provided three certificates of authenticity, one for each of the three versions of his art piece.
This makes me think that the framed banana-with-duct-tape recently given to a friend in upscale Rancho Santa Fe by her girlfriends during brunch might be, uh, a forgery.
Or a homage.
Nevertheless, they had a blast posting photos on social media, and a good time was had by all who saw it.
If you want to call Cattelan’s banana art, that’s OK with me.
I am much more taken with the response — from low comedy to high-minded analysis that the banana has generated.
Say what you will, but the world is talking (and laughing) about Cattelan’s banana and in today’s attention-starved social media universe, his banana is minted money.
Warhol’s banana project was equally effortless. He simply photographed a blemished banana, pumped up the contrast, and washed repetitions of the image in various colors.
That banana (at right) became iconic, showing up on sneakers, coffee mugs, umbrellas, a Velvet Underground cover, and, of course, T-shirts.
Mission accomplished, as far Warhol was concerned.
Bananas can be artistic and have been so in Western culture since the 17th century.
Dutch artist Albert Eckhout traveled to Brazil in the 1600s and painted “Bananas, guavas and other fruit” — the first known depiction of the fruit in art, according to some sources.
I like it more than Cattelan’s or Warhol’s:
So, I can’t begin to tell you how amusing it was to step out of a Jeep in Reno, Nevada, yesterday and see a banana peel on the ground, draped across a white parking stripe.
No duct tape, but maybe a commentary on Cattelan’s pedestrian use of duct tape? Not a full banana, but maybe a commentary on the soullessness of modern art?
Art? Or litter? You can decide:
“Money on the ground,” I thought.
I, of course, posted it to Facebook.
Being optimistic, I pegged its value at $150,000 because that is the price of the third Cattelan banana certificate.
Amanda Syme, a friend from Belize, sent me a picture of a half-eaten banana. “I wonder what this would be worth?” she asked.
A very shrewd friend and former newspaper colleague Arthur Salm had a different take, “Screw art — that’s a $150,000 lawsuit: You should have stepped on it and faked a fall. Do I have to explain EVERYTHING?”
That would make it performance art, I believe.
Gwen Jackson, my friend in Miami, offered to take my street banana image to the massive art show/part and tape it on a wall. She didn’t ask, but I assume the usual 15 percent, plus expenses, would be reasonable once she sells it.
I’ll cut out my new Miami agent and split the difference (in the name of art) …