In 1982, Andy Warhol ate a Whopper as part of Jørgen Leth’s ’66 Scenes from America.’ In the 16th century, Giuseppe Arcimboldo was painting food, ranging from vegetables to fish, to create portraits. And, now, at Art Basel Miami Beach, contemporary artists have made headlines, thanks to food once more, by making it into art and by eating that art.
Unless you’ve expertly stayed away from your phone, social media, or the news over the last couple of days, you most likely know by now that Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan presented a new artwork at Art Basel Miami Beach: a banana attached to a blank white wall with duct tape. Three editions of the work, titled Comedian, were for sale at Galerie Perrotin’s booth for a whopping $120,000 each. Shockingly, to some, two editions of Comedian were snapped up by hungry collectors and soon after, the price of the third work was raised by $30,000. That was until Saturday, when New York-based artist David Datuna either had a massive craving for a banana or performed a work of art and ate the final Comedian.
In a video posted by Datuna to his Instagram, you see the artist walk right up to the gallery wall, peel the banana and its duct tape off, and begin eating the banana. As he does this, he states his name and that what he’s doing is a piece of performance art, which he dubbed Hungry Artist. In the video, you can hear one shocked onlooker say to Datuna: ‘you’re not supposed to touch the art!’ – a sentiment to which anyone with an ounce of anxiety can relate. While security was called, Datuna slipped away from the scene and ultimately, he was not arrested.
This wasn’t Cattelan’s first time taping something to a wall, in 1999, he taped Massimo de Carlo, an Italian art dealer to his gallery wall. It’s also not his first time creating an artwork that gets people talking. One of those artworks is America, better known as the golden loo, that was stolen just months ago at the start of an exhibition at Blenheim Palace and has yet to be recovered. To put some worried minds at ease, the banana Datuna ate isn’t the most critical part to the work, although, from what we can tell, it is the first artwork Datuna has consumed. ‘He did not destroy the art work,’ Terras told the Miami Herald. ‘The banana is the idea.’ Additionally, Comedian is accompanied by a certificate of authentication, which allows for the banana to be replaced without affecting the integrity of the work.
Speculation over what the banana means could fill books, and who knows, maybe one day it will. It might be sober commentary on a combination of issues, from climate change to the incredible amounts of money people spend on art. Perhaps Cattelan simply wanted to see what would happen if he used a couple of ready-mades (is a banana a ready-made?) and less elbow grease to create what Perrotin touted as his ‘first time debuting new work for an art fair in over 15 years.’ As for Datuna, his performance could be likened to that of Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953). Maybe, it’s the ultimate compliment to Cattelan: Datuna liked his art so much that he ate it. What we do know is that both Comedian and Hungry Artist have grabbed the art world’s attention for better or worse and honestly, in today’s art world, is it really that surprising?