Provocative Art Basel Banana Gifted To Guggenheim Museum

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Lisette Voytko   Forbes U.S. Staff

Provocative Art Basel Banana Gifted To Guggenheim Museum

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New York City’s Guggenheim Museum was gifted the buzzy banana taped to a wall that was the talk of a 2019 Florida art fair according to the New York Times, in a show of support for the work’s artistic merit after the fruit drew fierce debate and derision, along with a price tag as high as $150,000.

KEY FACTS

- The banana sculpture—which consists of a banana duct-taped to a wall—was created by Italian art world prankster Maurizio Cattelan, is titled “Comedian” and was first shown by the Perrotin Gallery during December 2019’s tony Art Basel fair in Miami, Florida.

- The Guggenheim was gifted “Comedian” by an anonymous donor, according to the New York Times.

- The gifted work does not include a banana, but instead consists of a certificate of authenticity with 14 detailed pages of instructions on how to install and maintain the banana.

- Among the instructions: the banana must be replaced every 7 to 10 days, and it must be taped 175 centimeters off the ground. 

- “Of all the works I have to confront, this is probably one of the simplest,” Guggenheim chief conservator Lena Stringari told the Times.

- The Guggenheim does not yet have plans to install or display “Comedian” for the general public.

BIG NUMBER

Between $120,000 to $150,000. That’s how much buyers paid for three editions of “Comedian” made available during Art Basel. An offer to buy one of the artworks, made by British conceptual artist Damien Hirst, was reportedly rejected.

CHIEF CRITIC

Art critic Robert Storr, who told the Times in December 2019 that Cattelan was the opposite of celebrated pop artist Andy Warhol. “Andy insisted that the [Coca-Cola] you and I buy was democratic in that it cost us the same as it did Nelson Rockefeller. But obviously Maurizio has grasped that the rich will pay much, much more for a bespoke banana—bruises and all.” 

CRUCIAL QUOTE

“We are grateful recipients of the gift of ‘Comedian,’ a further demonstration of the artist’s deft connection to the history of modern art,” Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong told the Times on Friday. “Beyond which, it offers little stress to our storage.”

KEY BACKGROUND

The debut of “Comedian” at Art Basel prompted an art world furore, as debate ensued over whether the duct-taped banana could (or should) be considered art. The fruit attracted so many visitors seeking selfies that the gallery closed the exhibit on the final day of the fair. Before “Comedian,” Cattelan made waves in 2016 with the creation of an 18-karat gold toilet titled “America,” which the Guggenheim’s top curator offered to the White House in 2018, instead of the Vincent Van Gogh painting requested by President Trump and first lady Melania Trump.

TANGENT

Georgian-born performance artist David Datuna ate one of the “Comedian” bananas while it was on exhibition at Art Basel. “It’s not like, again, vandalism. It was art performance from me. And absolutely, I’m not sorry,” Datuna told Reuters at the time. “I call performance ‘Hungry Artist’. Yeah, because I was hungry and I just eat it.”

 

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Lisette Voytko   Forbes U.S. Staff

I'm a New York-based journalist covering breaking news at Forbes. I hold a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Previous bylines: Gotham Gazette, Bklyner, Thrillist, Task & Purpose and xoJane.