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Maurizio Cattelan's "comedian" presented by Galerie Perrotin and on display at Art Basel Miami 2019 at the Miami Beach Convention Center on December 6, 2019 in Miami Beach, Florida. Cindy Ord / Getty Images / AFP

A banana of 120,000 euros was enough to cause scandal and mockery beyond the art world.

"The world's gone bananas! (The world has gone mad!), Headlined the British newspaper The Daily Mail. The subject of this cry of dread? A banana. But not just any of them. The banana taped to the wall of the annual Art Basel fair in Miami Beach, in the United States, by a piece of gray adhesive tape.

Entitled The Comedian, the first two editions of this work by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan were sold last weekend at $ 120,000 by French gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin. Before going up to $ 150,000 for the last copy. " From Duchamp's urinal to Cattelan's banana, has the art world been banished?" Asked France Culture .

Mise en abyme

120,000 dollars for a fruit of everyday consumption doomed to putrefaction. The affair did not fail to resuscitate the eternal controversy around contemporary art. Is it art? While the spectators were in a hurry to take a picture of the object as they would have done for Mona Lisa, some shouted at the imposture, the grotesque, even indecency… Glowing once again on the absurdity of the bidding of the art market.

The work therefore did not fail to react. Questioning, provoking ... Isn't this ultimately the vocation of art? In this sense, we can say that the Italian artist did not miss his shot. Especially since the story does not end there. In full exposure, David Datuna, artist and performer, approaches the banana, detaches it from his gaffer, peels it before tasting it with a smile in front of the camera's lens. An "artistic performance" immediately baptized by its author The Hungry artist.

The really, really, really, really expensive banana at #ArtBasel was eaten this afternoon by a New York artist (Vid: David_Datuna) pic.twitter.com/90mUhktyqd

Joel Franco (@OfficialJoelF) December 8, 2019

An act without consequence. Because, important precision, it is not this taped banana which was sold accompanied by its certificate of authenticity, but the "protocol". In other words, the concept, and the right to stick a banana on a wall with a piece of adhesive.

Very inspired diversions

The buzz, further increased by this event, is there. With an advantage over other works of contemporary art which also hit the headlines, such as the painting by Banksy self-destructing just after being auctioned off. Art has never been so accessible to everyone. And we can say that bananas have inspired a lot. On Twitter and Instagram, thousands and thousands of objects and various and varied fruits and vegetables found themselves photographed taped to the wall in an avalanche of diversions. Animals and babies were not spared.

The brands have not been asked do more when it came to give a little fishing to their advertising campaigns. Surfing the news to treat yourself to a trendy ad, it even has a name: it's called the marketing rebound. Handbags, beauty products and sneakers… This is all these beautiful people glued to the wall, generally with the aim of highlighting the outrageous price difference between Maurizio Cattelan's banana and the item sold.

The American fast food chain Popeyes Chicken said: "Do not eat art. Even if it's delicious. Check out our masterpiece "The Sandwich" at @Sanpaulgallery for #ArtBasel. Toasted brioche bread, two pickles, fried chicken, mayo, duct tape on canvas. $ 120,000.99 "

Or in France, by Burger King, who taunts: "Don't swallow anything".


Do not swallow anything. pic.twitter.com/3ao767nsaa

Burger King France (@BurgerKingFR) December 8, 2019

Or the famous Patafix UHU which boasts with its banana which seems miraculously fixed to the wall. Or Carrefour which, with its range of organic products, prides itself on putting "culinary art within everyone's reach".

With our #BIO products, culinary art is within everyone's reach.

???????? https: //t.co/uG7oOmcc0e pic.twitter.com/PK6TTt34IQ

Carrefour (@CarrefourFrance) December 10, 2019

In another genre, minds as creative as facetious have stunned the Mona Lisa by sticking a banana on his eye, where others have added a banana to the plant portraits of Arcimboldo.

More daring, the hijacking carried out by the Hong Kong police, plagued for months by a violently repressed protest movement. The image shows a tear gas canister taped to a wall, with this caption: "For a police officer, the use of force, including tear gas, is always a last resort. If the protesters do not use violence, Hong Kong will be safe and there will be no reason to use force. Say NO to violence. Leave the tear gas canisters stuck to the wall forever. "

Gold troll of the year for the Hong Kong police, who to provoke the protesters post on Twitter a photo of a tear gas canister taped to a wall, in reference to the banana by Maurizio Cattelan, recently sold for $ 120,000 at the fair Art Basel in Miami. https://t.co/X0OxRW4JKv

Jérémy André Florès (@Tantalite) December 12, 2019

In line with an artistic tradition

Beyond criticism and mockery, this banana is reminiscent of the Fountain of Marcel Duchamp, an overturned urinal, which had also aroused horrified reactions. Moreover, the work of Maurizio Cattelan entitled America and recently stolen from an English castle is inspired by Duchamp since it is a urinal, in solid gold this time. The work also recalls the pop art and the banana of Andy Warhol which adorns the famous cover of the Velvet Underground.

Proof if it is in any case of its power of provocation, this weekend, it is the Miami maintenance agents who parodied it, by demonstrating a banana stuck on the chest to draw attention to their meager wages.

Thank you Commissioner Ken Russell for joining today's #PlatanitoProtest to protest Miami's stark inequality and demand a living wage and union rights for janitors! #JusticeforJanitors #BananaProtest #catellanbanana pic.twitter.com/ueMgu0tTjJ

32BJ SEIU Florida (@ 32BJFlorida) December 12, 2019

Faced with controversy, Jason Fargo, art critic for the New York Times, decided the question . For him, The Comedian is indeed a work of art. " It's a banana AND a piece of tape ," he says. So of a "sculpture". A work which, he develops, “ continues Cattelan's decades-long work on hanging objects, a work which makes obvious things seem ridiculous, thus deflating and defeating the claims of the art that preceded it . "

Maurizio Cattelan is indeed not his first attempt. Among his best-known works are Him, a statue of a kneeling Adolf Hitler, as if in prayer. It sold for more than 15 million euros. Or LOVE, a sort of huge finger of honor carved in Carrara marble and planted opposite the Milan Stock Exchange.

His banana also refers to one of his previous works, since he had already taped a man on a wall during an opening: an art dealer. No doubt another way of pinning the middle.

The banana artist already did that https://t.co/wbhIkzYZ4S

Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) December 10, 2019