Eight months after its debut, Maurizio Cattelan's artwork of a banana duct-taped to a wall – which caused a stir late last year for its $120,000 price tag – is still in demand.
British artist Damien Hirst expressed his desire to have one of his own, going so far as to offer to exchange any of his artworks for an edition of the piece. "I was desperate to buy this artwork from Maurizio Cattelan, called Comedian, because I love it so much," wrote Hirst on his Instagram page.
Cattelan's Comedian was first shown at Art Basel Miami Beach in December. It is made of a banana stuck to a wall with a piece of silver duct-tape, and comes with the artist's certificate of authenticity. The banana is meant to be replaced weekly.
The work was available in three editions, two of which were sold on opening day for $120,000 each (Dh440,000). For the last piece, Perrotin Gallery, which housed the work in its booth during the fair, upped the price to $150,000. There were two artist’s proofs (AP), though Cattelan reportedly ate one of them.
In his post, Hirst says that he reached out to Francesco Bonami, who has worked with Cattelan for years, to see how he could go about acquiring a piece or having one made for him, but his efforts were in vain. “I asked my friend and curator Francesco Bonami to ask Maurizio if he had an A.P. he could sell me or if he would make me a special one? I offered to swap it for anything of mine? But sadly he said no,” he wrote.
Feeling sorry for the artist, Bonami decided to give Hirst a gift. He made his own version of Comedian and sent it to Hirst as a present, though there is one small alteration – the banana is facing the other way. "This is it now on my wall and I love it, Hirst said. "He said the banana has to point the opposite way… Thanks Francesco and thanks for trying!"
Even for his Cattelan copy, Hirst says he plans on following the Italian artist’s instructions to replace the fruit weekly. “I want it to look fresh,” says Hirst, saying that he will eat each banana as it gets replaced.
Cattelan, known for being an art world 'prankster', is no stranger to controversy when it comes to his work. In 2016, he installed an 18-carat solid gold functioning toilet inside New York's Solomon R Guggenheim museum's bathrooms and called it America. In earlier years, specifically 1997, he hung a taxidermied horse from a ceiling of an opulent baroque room in Turin.
His work Comedian kicked off mockery and memes, with individuals on social media recreating their own "fruit taped to the wall" examples. It also sparked a debate about how the value of works are determined in the art market.
For Hirst, this ability to surprise the art world and the general public is what made the work so admirable for him. “Because after everything we’ve seen in art it’s still shocking and upsetting and it makes me laugh,” he says.