Student eats Maurizio Cattelan’s banana artwork because ‘he was hungry’

Student eats banana artwork taped to museum wall because ‘he was hungry’

For some, the chance to see a banana taped to a wall means being a touch away from a sensational moment in recent art history. For others, it’s a tempting snack.

On Thursday, an art student at Seoul National University found it was the latter when he pulled the fruit — an iconic work by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan — off a wall at the Leeum Art Museum in Seoul, South Korea, where it was on display. He then proceeded to swallow it.

“The student told the museum he ate it because he was hungry,” a museum spokesman told CNN in a phone call.

Titled Comedian, the work became one of the art world’s biggest viral moments when it sold for $120,000 at Art Basel Miami Beach in December 2019. Two other editions of the work were also sold at the fair.

After eating the fruit, the South Korean student taped the peel back to the wall. The peel was later replaced by the museum with a fresh banana.

The consequences of the accident. credit: shwan.han/Instagram

“It happened suddenly, so no special action was taken. The artist (Cattelan) was informed of the incident but did not react in any way,” the museum spokesperson added.

The work is part of the solo exhibition of Cattelan WE, i.e currently running at the Seoul-based museum until July 16. The banana itself is regularly changed every two to three days, and not for sale.

Cattelan is known for his satirical works works that challenge popular culture, often provoking debates surrounding conceptual art.

Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s “The Comedian” is on display at the Leeum Art Museum until July 16 in Seoul, South Korea credit: Kim Kyoungtae/Maurizio Cattelan/Leeum Art Museum

It wasn’t the first time someone thought the work was ripe for the picking.

After the first edition of Comedian sold out in 2019, performance artist David Datuna unceremoniously plucked a banana on display at the Perrotin Gallery at Art Basel in Miami and ate it as stunned onlookers watched.
Datuna enjoyed the stunt, posting on Instagram at the time, saying: “I really love this installation. It’s very tasty.” He later defended the act, calling it an art performance at a press conference, not an act of vandalism.

Ahead of the high-profile art sale, Perrotin told CNN that bananas are “a symbol of global trade, ambiguity, as well as a classic vehicle for humor,” adding that Cattelan turns ordinary objects into “vehicles of both delight and criticism.” The the artist did not provide potential buyers with instructions on what to do when the work began to decompose.

Someone ate a $120,000 banana that an artist had taped to the wall

The work is also embroiled in a copyright battle. In 2022, Joe Morford, an artist from Glendale, California, claims that Cattelan had plagiarized his own 2000 work titled Banana and Orange — which sees the titular fruits taped to painted green wall backgrounds.

Morford, who is representing himself, registered the work with the US Copyright Office and posted the work on his website, Facebook and YouTube accounts long before Cattelan created Comedian, according to court documents.

Cattelan’s lawyers argued that Morford did not have a “valid copyright” on the elements of the work – the banana and tape taped to the wall.

Another of Cattelan’s viral artworks was a solid 18-carat gold toilet “titled” America, valued at around $6 million. It was first installed at the Guggenheim in New York in 2016 and was open for use by visitors. Later in 2019, it was stolen from Winston Churchill’s birthplace at Bleinheim Palace in England, where it was put on display. It was never found.

Above image caption: ‘The Comedian’, a 2019 artwork by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, is seen in Seoul, South Korea.

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