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'It's performance' - rogue artist eats banana artwork valued at €108,000

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A banana attached with duct-tape is seen as it replaces the artwork 'Comedian' by the artist Maurizio Cattelan, which was eaten by David Datuna, in Miami Beach, Florida, December 7, 2019.  REUTERS/Eva Marie Uzcategui

A banana attached with duct-tape is seen as it replaces the artwork 'Comedian' by the artist Maurizio Cattelan, which was eaten by David Datuna, in Miami Beach, Florida, December 7, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Marie Uzcategui

REUTERS

A banana attached with duct-tape is seen as it replaces the artwork 'Comedian' by the artist Maurizio Cattelan, which was eaten by David Datuna, in Miami Beach, Florida, December 7, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Marie Uzcategui

If you duct-tape a banana to a wall at a posh art gallery and slap a title on it, is it really art?

For the collector who paid an eye-popping €108,000 ($120,000) last week for an Art Basel installation at Miami Beach, Florida, depicting just that, the answer is yes.

How about if you pull that pricey piece of fruit off the wall, peel it and eat it in front of a crowd of confused onlookers? Does that count as art, too?

Definitely, according to David Datuna, a New York-based performance artist who put his own, apparently unauthorized, spin on the installation that became a viral sensation after it went up at Galerie Perrotin in Miami Beach last week.

Titled "Comedian," the piece by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan consisted of a single overripe banana duct-taped to a wall at the gallery. Starting Thursday, people flocked to the show to snap pictures of the curious installation, which drew a mix of bemusement, mockery and genuine interest as it made international headlines and popped up in the Instagram feeds of users around the world.

But on Saturday afternoon, in full view of a throng of Art Basel attendees, Datuna strolled up to the work, removed the taped banana from the wall and casually ate it.

The whole thing was captured on video. Some people laughed. Others sounded taken aback.

"It's art performance," Datuna said, grinning impishly as he nibbled on the fruit. "We respect Maurizio, but it's art performance. 'Hungry Artist.'"

Moments later, a gallery official arrived and confronted him. "Are you kidding? Did you really do that?" the woman asked.

"Yes," Datuna responded. "But it's performance."

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An Art Basel visitor places a banana in front of the wall where the artwork 'Comedian' by the artist Maurizio Cattelan was exhibited in Miami Beach, Florida, December 7, 2019.  REUTERS/Eva Marie Uzcategui

An Art Basel visitor places a banana in front of the wall where the artwork 'Comedian' by the artist Maurizio Cattelan was exhibited in Miami Beach, Florida, December 7, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Marie Uzcategui

REUTERS

An Art Basel visitor places a banana in front of the wall where the artwork 'Comedian' by the artist Maurizio Cattelan was exhibited in Miami Beach, Florida, December 7, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Marie Uzcategui

"It's not performance," the official told him.

Other videos posted to social media showed Datuna being escorted away by security. "See you after jail, guys," he said as guards steered him through the crowd.

But when the commotion settled, Datuna wasn't arrested. The banana was replaced with a newer, fresher one. And the gallery appeared to take the whole episode in stride.

Lucien Terras, director of museum relations for Galerie Perrotin, said Datuna's act didn't devalue the work or detract from its overall integrity. Yes, the original banana is now making its way through Datuna's digestive tract. But the work comes with a certificate of authenticity, and that's what collectors are really paying for.

"He did not destroy the art work. The banana is the idea," Terras told the Miami Herald.

"This has brought a lot of tension and attention to the booth, and we're not into spectacles," Terras said. "But the response has been great. It brings a smile to a lot of people's faces."

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Gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin attaches a banana with duct-tape in the wall where the artwork 'Comedian' by the artist Maurizio Cattelan was exhibited in Miami Beach, Florida, December 7, 2019.  REUTERS/Eva Marie Uzcategui

Gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin attaches a banana with duct-tape in the wall where the artwork 'Comedian' by the artist Maurizio Cattelan was exhibited in Miami Beach, Florida, December 7, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Marie Uzcategui

REUTERS

Gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin attaches a banana with duct-tape in the wall where the artwork 'Comedian' by the artist Maurizio Cattelan was exhibited in Miami Beach, Florida, December 7, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Marie Uzcategui

Cattelan and Datuna didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday morning.

Datuna, born in Tbilisi, Georgia, is a prolific performance and multimedia artist. One of his best known works is "Viewpoint of Millions," in which he suspended thousands of optical lenses over an array of images of public figures and symbols such as the American flag. In 2017, he spelled out President Donald Trump's name in a 10-foot ice sculpture to protest Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

Cattelan has achieved immense popularity for his satirical creations, which over the years have included an effigy of Pope John Paul II being crushed by a meteor and a replica of the famous Hollywood sign erected on a waste dump in Palermo, Italy.

He has also had his work stolen before. In September, an 18-karat gold toilet designed by Cattelan and titled "America" disappeared from Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, where it was on display. Several people have since been arrested in the caper, which Cattelan called "a little bit surreal."

-Washington Post

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