For those who only engage with Art Basel from afar and with a vague sensation of annual contempt, the media firestorm that erupted over the past couple days around Maurizio Cattelan’s conceptual art piece Comedian, which consists of a real banana duct taped to a wall, was too delicious to ignore. Comedian was the prized draw of Emmanuel Perrotin’s booth at the Miami Beach Convention Center over the weekend, where the hoopla almost instantly convinced two different collectors to purchase separate editions of the taped banana for $120,000 each. Things really exploded into the collective consciousness, however, when a performance artist and prankster named David Datuna strolled up to the taped banana on Saturday afternoon and, in front of horrified onlookers, ate it.
Datuna’s act of artistic vandalism prompted Lucien Terras, the director of museum relations for Galerie Perrotin, to insist to the Miami Herald that Comedian being eaten didn’t mean it had been lost. “[Datuna] did not destroy the art work,” Terras said. “The banana is the idea.” Depending on your opinion of the blue-chip art world, this is either shameless nonsense or total genius: if a disgruntled conscientious objector destroys a painting, absolutely nothing can be done and its collector would be devastated, but a perishable work of art being consumed seamlessly gestures towards “the ephemeral nature of objects.” In any case, Galerie Perrotin gets to retain their sales.
Now, more information has emerged regarding how the now-infamous banana will continue to circulate throughout popular culture. “Sarah Andelman [founder of the Paris store, Colette] bought number one and for number two, the client wants to remain anonymous,” dealer Emmanuel Perrotin told The Art Newspaper. “For the third edition, the name [of the buyer] will be revealed when they donate the work to a museum. We were in a position to sell many more editions, but we didn’t sell the two artist proofs.” It’s as yet unclear which museum will end up as the lucky recipient of an edition of Comedian, but they’ll definitely have to swap out the fresh banana frequently if it’s a work they’d like to keep perpetually on display.