How Cattelan’s latest for Art Basel Miami took the internet by storm

Perrotin at Art Basel Miami Beach. Courtesy of Sarah Cascone.

After November’s much-anticipated auction week in New York, the storm has usually passed for the art world until year end. However, this year’s Art Basel Miami and its events, held in the first week of December are sure to be talked about for many cycles to come; A handful of buyers spent between $120,000 and $150,000 each on artwork featuring a banana. 

Read Autumn auction season: What really drove art sales in New York this November?

Contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan, who brought us the $6m gold toilet at Blenheim Palace earlier this year, achieved Banksy-like status when he created an artwork especially for the show – a banana, duct-taped to a wall. Cattelan effectively came out of retirement to show his first work created specifically for an art show in 15 years.

Comedian by Maurizio Cattelan. Photo by Zeno Zotti, Jacopo Zotti. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin.

The work, titled Comedian, sparked debate and coverage among all types of audiences when it was displayed in Parisian dealer Emmanuel Perrotin’s gallery space. Non-art show goers are said to have flocked to the spectacle.

Perrotin stressed to the New York Times that the real value was in its certificate of authenticity, not in the artwork itself, “They buy an idea, they buy a certificate,” he said.

Some of the work’s buyers, such as Miami natives Billy and Beatrice Cox, are calling Comedian: “the unicorn of the art world” and likening it to Andy Warhol’s 1962 Campbell’s Soup Cans. There are other parallels being drawn to Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain.

While the absurdity of a banana taped to a wall is not lost on buyers and critics, Comedian has raised the boundaries further for performance art. Later at the show, after it had already sold, performance artist David Datuna peeled the banana and ate it. The artwork was soon replaced by graffiti in lipstick that read: “Epstien didn’t kill himself.”

A lot of the social media coverage of Cattelan’s installation featured other items of food.