Feeling abit hungry? Performance Artist David Datuna has devoured an artwork worth $120,000, sending the art world bananas.
The recent occurrence of performance artist David Datuna eating one of three Maurizio Cattelan’s ‘Comedian’ has sent people in the art world into hysteria. How can an artwork that is apparently valued at $120,000 be simply devoured by a human being? The response Datuna gave was easy: ‘I was hungry’.
How do we value art on the basis of the artwork’s subjectivity? Is Datuna a hero to non art connoisseurs and a villain to art snobs?
In taking a cheesy reference from Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, ‘Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now,’ one can say the performance David Datuna gave is definitely something of importance that the art world needs right now.
I am not an art critic whatsoever but looking at the frenzy Datuna has created by eating a prized artwork at the Miami Art Basel exhibition has created a direct message to the art world. Datuna’s actions was physical art, a message to provoke and spark the question on how audiences subjectively view art and its value.
Cattlelan’s ‘Comedian’ is a simple art installation of an individual banana duct taped to the wall. The banana and duct tape comes with a certificate of authenticity (the most valuable item) and the owner can replace the banana and tape at any given time.
According to recent reports Datuna will not be held in custody or penalised for his actions.
— Joel Franco (@OfficialJoelF) December 8, 2019
In the above video, Datuna was courageous and in the moment. Looking at the banana with avid curiosity, he saw it as a normal piece of fruit and so, logically, it was there to be eaten and in turn, throwing the contemporary art world on its head. By calling his performance ‘Hungry Artist’ Datuna’s actions illustrate the frustrations and opposition to the snobbery and silliness that seeps into what we think is modern art and the mode of appreciation we take in art museums.
So if the original banana was going to rot away and get replaced, what is the value of this artwork? This one piece of fruit being stuck against the wall? And if it is so easily replaced what makes the artwork unique? To an extent, the uproar that the artwork has generated speaks for itself in creating such a dilemma within mainstream public opinion with the surge of debate making the artwork somewhat special because it has provoked such curiosity.
As seen by the social media posts below, many people have copied the lauded artwork since Datuna’s post-snacking. But with copycats poking fun, does the artwork lose its integrity? Not at all because it provokes more interest into the conversation of ‘what is art’ and the artwork itself gains greater awareness and appeal.
Found a Banana Duct taped to a wall in the NYC subway stations today because of this pic.twitter.com/KFSalI3GZw
— CommemorateEtikaNetwork (@FandomTrash264) December 8, 2019
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This is for all my friends that couldn’t make it to miami this year and are missing all the glorious banana controversy. Plus, a “gate” in the artworld?? Is this our first one?? I couldn’t help but participate. Here’s to you Maurizio Cattelan. First time in a long while that the talk of Basel is actually about art, and not celebrities, parties and Instagram. My installation, “The Price of Everything” (thanks HBO) is an edition of 8 bananas scattered around downtown nyc. Try and find one, they’re from Trader Joe’s, and quite delicious. (I go all out when it comes to art supplies..) Now for my annoying and already way too long artist rant: #BananaGate : Most people that follow this page are into art and most likely aware of Cattelan’s $120,000 duct taped banana at Basel this year. Regardless of how much you love or hate it, anyone that’s been to an art fair before knows that most of the artwork is screaming to be seen. Especially today, where the market often veers towards art that actually “looks” valuable. Neon lights, art made of gold and chrome, Infiniti mirrors, etc. “Shiny things”. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Some of the most beautiful and most mind blowing pieces of art I’ve ever seen fall into that category! But, for a 6” x 6” piece of art to draw almost one hundred percent of the art world’s press and attention with just a few dollars worth of mundane materials is almost impossible. Rarely ever does a piece of art go mainstream like this. The banana is basically this year’s Leonardo DiCaprio. Again, love it or hate it, that’s an insane fete. And not an easy one. If it was, we’d all be rich and famous artists. Had the artist installed a breathtaking and beautiful painting, absolutely nobody would be talking about it. And that’s the POINT of art! Conversation. Reflection. Disruption. Instigation. All of it. All of it represented by a banana, some duct tape, and a ridiculous price tag (they all already sold from what I hear) So again, seventeen thousand cheers for @mauriziocattelan for keeping the conversation alive. And even more cheers for the banana that’s most likely already dating Kendall Jenner. #endRant #artbaselmiami
Why ‘Comedian’ a tiny piece of art is considered an ironic/satirical piece of artistic brilliance
The artwork is expressive and intrinsic in its own minimalist way. In reference to the artwork’s minimalism, Gallery Director Emmanuel Perrotin of the Perrotin Art Gallery backs the artwork’s vagueness seeing the artwork as a provoking “symbol of global trade, a double entendre as well as a classic device for humour.” Perrotin continued to praise Cattelan’s artistic vision, adding its power to transform everyday objects into “vehicles of both delight and critique.”
Cattlelan is witty in the way he used inexpensive materials to provoke a surprising reception. Was Cattlelan waiting for someone to eat the artwork? If the banana is a symbol of global trade, it is a suitable candidate because it is a product that is imported and exported in global consumerism and trade on a daily basis.
Datuna’s performance of eating the artwork therefore shows how we as consumers exploit such a granted, easily produced product.
Datuna’s actions were simply motivated by his own free will and his performance demonstrates that he wanted to physically represent Cattlelan’s metaphorical purpose.
According to gallery director Lucien Terras in an interview with Miami Herald, “[Datuna] did not destroy the art work. The banana is the idea.”
David Datuna has already established himself as a renowned global artist, known for his major work series, Viewpoint of Millions. Created through a network of positive and negative optical lenses suspended over a large-scale collage image, it explores our perceptions of cultural identity and patriotism.
In his own words, Datuna told the press, “This is not for publicity. I do many installations around the world. I have enough publicity.”
Sydney Morning Herald columnist, John Birmingham, believes: ‘Datuna, scoffing the centrepiece of Cattelan’s speckled yellow object, the art, immediately doubled or even tripled its value.’
Since Datuna’s snacking, the third edition of ‘Comedian’ was purchased by Miami couple Billy and Beatrice Cox for $120,000.
“We see the piece as a unicorn in the art world, and bought it to ensure that it would be accessible to the public forever, to fuel debate and provoke thoughts and emotion in a public space in perpetuity,” the Cox family stated in a press release. “At Art Basel there have been many multimillion-dollar pieces that have been bought and sold with less fanfare, yet people who usually would not have been so interested in art wanted to see ‘the banana.’ It has opened the floodgates and morphed into an important debate about the value that we place on works of art and objects in general.” interviewed by the Maimi Herald.
Hopefully it doesn’t get eaten…
And just like Datuna, Maurizio Cattelan himself is an absurdist prankster. Cattlelan’s other known work was his 18 carat golden cask functioning toilet at the Guggenheim gallery in New York City.
For myself, I have a hard time questioning and analysing the complexity of an artwork at the art gallery. I am not sure how my own interpretations can be justifiable towards the artists’ own intentions, but I guess that is the point in viewing and judging art.
Cattlelan has somehow convinced art collectors to spend a huge amount of money on something significantly small and accessible to the wider public. What Cattlelan has presented to us is something so basic that offers a complex reflection of ourselves.
And on that note, I leave this twitter post:
David Datuna's actions have inspired me. If I ever visit the Louvre, I will eat the Mona Lisa.
— Sledgehammertoe (@sledgehammertoe) December 8, 2019
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