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Someone Ate the $120,000 Banana at Art Basel

There's always money in the banana business.
banana peel set on a white background

It's one banana. How much could it cost? At Trader Joe's, they're famously 19 cents each. In the eye of Lucille Bluth, from Arrested Development, they're ten bucks. If you're at Art Basel, in the real world, it could be $120,000.

Last week, Emmanuel Perrotin, a contemporary art gallery owner with locations in Tokyo, Paris, Shanghai, and elsewhere, put up a curious piece of art at his Art Basel Miami Beach booth: a single banana, duct-taped to a wall. The asking price? A cool $120,000.

The banana is titled "Comedian," and it's designed by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan—the same guy who famously created a fully functioning gold toilet titled "America" for the Guggenheim in 2017.

As the Associated Press reported, the artwork comes in three editions (two of which have already sold). Perrotin planned to ramp up the price of the third to $150,000 and sell it to a museum.

Or that was the plan—before someone went and ate the banana.

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On Saturday, December 7th, New York City-based performance artist David Datuna walked up to "Comedian," pulled it off the wall, and ate it in front of a crowd of attendees.

"I respect Maurizio, but it's art performance," he said. "Hungry artist." (It is unclear if Datuna is referring to Cattelan or to himself as "hungry." But we'll note that just one of them is actually eating in the video.)

Datuna was escorted off the premises by security after his performance.

But the day wasn't entirely ruined. As Lucien Terras, the director of museum relations for Perrotin's gallery, told the Miami Herald, "[Datuna] did not destroy the artwork. The banana is the idea."

Apparently, when buyers drop cash for "Comedian," they get the banana and the tape—but they also get a certificate of authenticity, and a dictate that, when the banana inevitably rots, it should be replaced. It's the certificate of authenticity that will last for whoever gets the artwork—not the banana.

Neither Cattelan nor Perrotin offered instructions on how, exactly, to replace the banana. The only thing we know for sure: There really is money in the banana stand.

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Ari Notis
Ari is an editor specializing in news and lifestyle. Read more
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