Remember the artwork of a banana duct taped to a wall that made the art world go bananas in 2019? Priced at $120,000 (Dh440,656) and titled ‘The Comedian’, the taped fruit in question was the work of Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. It was displayed recently at the Leeum Museum of Art located in Hannam-dong, Seoul, South Korea, until a student got hungry and ate it before taping the peel back on the wall.
According to news outlets in South Korea, the student ate the banana at around 1pm on Thursday, while visiting Cattelan's ongoing solo exhibition ‘WE’.
The exhibition features 38 works by the Italian artist, starting from the 1990s.
According to an article on koreaherald.com, the student took the banana from the wall, peeled it and ate it on site, and then reattached only the banana peel back to the wall using the existing tape.
When the museum asked why he had eaten it, the student, an art major at Seoul National University, replied that he was hungry because he had skipped breakfast.
The article said: “In a phone interview later with a local broadcaster, the student confessed that he thought damaging a work of modern art could also be (interpreted as a kind of) artwork, adding that he came up with the idea to reattach the banana peel, thinking it was a fun way of looking at it.”
Luckily for him, the museum has decided not to claim damages against the student, since the banana in Cattelan’s artwork was being replaced every two to three days based on the artist’s instructions.
This is not the first time the banana was eaten. The ephemeral sculpture made its first proud appearance at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2019. A viral video showed that just a few minutes after the artwork was sold for $120,000, David Datuna, a performance artist, took the banana and ate it up.
But, it isn’t the banana itself that the buyer buys. According to the Galerie Perrotin, the gallery responsible for bringing Cattelan's work to art fairs around the world, it is the “idea” of the taped banana that is bought.
Upon purchasing, the buyer gets a 'certificate of authenticity' from the artist along with a detailed 14-page set of instructions on how the sculpture should be installed, an article on koreatimes.com noted.
So, the gallery officials simply replaced the store-bought fruit with another one, when the performance artist ate it up. The idea is that “the physical object is gone, but the idea lives on”, according to Galerie Perrotin.
WE is the artist’s largest show ever held, since his 2011 show at the Guggenheim in New York, where all 128 of his works were dangled in midair like a surrealist Christmas tree in the museum's iconic rotunda. It is the artist's first solo exhibition in South Korea and will run until July 16.