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December 14, 2019

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Artist goes bananas and eats US$120,000 artwork

The move was bananas ... or maybe the work was just too appealing.

A performance artist shook up the crowd at the Art Basel show in Miami Beach on December 7 when he grabbed a banana that had been duct-taped to a gallery wall and ate it.

The banana was, in fact, a work of art by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan titled “Comedian” and sold to a French collector for US$120,000.

In a video posted on his Instagram account, David Datuna, who describes himself as a Georgian-born American artist living in New York, walks up to the banana and pulls it off the wall with the duct tape attached.

“Art performance ... hungry artist,” he said, as he peeled the fruit and took a bite. “Thank you, very good.”

A few bystanders could be heard giggling before a flustered gallery official whisked him to an adjoining space for questioning. But the kerfuffle was resolved without a food fight.

“He did not destroy the art work. The banana is the idea,” Lucien Terras, director of museum relations for Galerie Perrotin, told the Miami Herald.

As it turns out, the value of the work is in the certificate of authenticity, the newspaper reported. The banana is meant to be replaced. A replacement banana was taped to the wall about 15 minutes after Datuna’s stunt.

“This has brought a lot of tension and attention to the booth, and we’re not into spectacles,” Terras said. “But the response has been great. It brings a smile to a lot of people’s faces.”

Gallery director Peggy Leboeuf said that no legal action was planned against Datuna.

“He was not arrested, but we asked him to leave the booth and to leave the fair,” she said. “We have his contact and everything, so we can go further, but I don’t think we will.”

With laughter on Monday after returning to New York, Datuna explained he waited two hours until “I was hungry” before eating the pricy banana artwork.

“It’s the first time one artist eats art of another artist,” he said in a mirth-filled press conference.

In spite of the price, “it tasted like a regular banana,” said the Tbilisi-born Datuna, who has lived in New York for 22 years.

He added that he didn’t need the publicity. But he basked in his latest exploit, boasting that the video of his “performance” had generated 40,000 to 50,000 messages on Instagram, many of them congratulatory.

Datuna, who has never met Cattelan, praised the Italian.

Cattelan’s ideas are “genius,” said Datuna. “But I like also what I did.”

Cattelan is perhaps best known for his 18-carat, fully functioning gold toilet called “America” that he had once offered on loan to US President Donald Trump.

The toilet, valued at US$5-6 million, was in the news again in September when it was stolen from Britain’s Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of wartime leader Winston Churchill, where it had been on display.

Datuna has previously shown works at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington and recently opened a gallery in Long Island City, New York.

In June 2017, shortly after Trump announced he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, Datuna created a work with Trump’s name in dry ice on a Manhattan sidewalk.

The installation, titled “this too shall pass,” gradually melted as New Yorkers gawked at the work.

Datuna said he has planned his next surprise for the Super Bowl, the National Football League championship on February 2, also in Miami.


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