The £90,000 banana – why is it so appealing to the art market?

This weekend, visitors at the high-profile Art Basel fair in Miami have been going bananas for one very unusual piece of art.

Comedian by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan is merely an over-ripened banana attached to a wall with some duct tape. Despite its simple appearance, visitors to the contemporary art fair have been frantically queuing to take selfies with the infamous banana.

It’s more than a century since Duchamp’s Fountain, yet the equivalent of putting a urinal in a gallery can still cause a global sensation,” compared Jonathan Jones, journalist for the Guardian.

Three buyers have shockingly paid between £90,000 and £115,000 for the limited-edition pieces. Each banana comes with its own authentication certificate and replacement instructions for when it inevitably perishes.

Billy and Beatrice Cox, two of the buyers, said they were “acutely aware of the blatant absurdity” of purchasing an inexpensive piece of fruit for so much money. “We knew we were taking a risk, but ultimately we sense that Cattelan’s banana will become an iconic historical object.”

Cattelan’s witty piece has undoubtedly sparked an important debate about the value we place on works of art in general. His pieces mock the art market, most recently creating a solid gold toilet which was then stolen from Blenheim Palace.

On Saturday, Comedian attracted even more attention when it was unexpectedly eaten by a visitor as an act of “art performance.” David Datuna unapologetically commented, “I love Maurizio Cattelan artwork and I really love this installation. It’s very delicious.

All was not lost, however, as guards swiftly replaced the banana. “[Datuna] did not destroy the art work. The banana is the idea,” declared Lucien Terras, an art advisor.

Towards the end of the weekend, Art Basel decided to permanently remove Cattelan’s work from display because it was causing too much disruption at the fair. “Art Basel collaboratively worked with us to station guards and create uniform lines,” explained the gallery in an official statement. “However, the installation caused several uncontrollable crowd movements and the placement of the work on our booth compromised the safety of the artwork around us, including that of our neighbors.”

Yet even in its absence the banana still managed to provoke controversy. Rod Webber, another performance artist, proceeded to spray-paint “Epstein didn’t kill himself” onto the white wall where the banana had been displayed.

After dramatically consuming the art world for nearly a week, Cattelan’s piece has undoubtedly left behind a trail of disruption in its wake. But can his duct-taped banana really be considered a piece of art? Cattelan thinks so, at least as a contemptuous comment about the art market it exists within.


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