Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 31 October 2020

Maurizio Cattelan's banana artwork is now part of the Guggenheim Museum's collection

The New York institution received the $120,000 controversial artwork as a gift from an anonymous donor

A man poses for a photo next to 'Comedian' by the artist Maurizio Cattelan. Reuters 
A man poses for a photo next to 'Comedian' by the artist Maurizio Cattelan. Reuters 

Maurizio Cattelan’s Comedian is back in the news again. The artwork – a banana taped to a wall that sold for $120,000 (Dh440,700) at an art fair last year – is now part of the Guggenheim Museum’s collection after the institution accepted it from an anonymous donor.

Comedian caught the attention of the art world during Art Basel Miami Beach last December, where two iterations sold for $120,000 each and a third for $150,000. It generated a slew of internet memes and angry tweets from people who were baffled by its price tag.

The hefty sum is not actually for the fruit. Instead, it is for the certificate of authenticity for the work and 14-page list of instructions on how to install and display it, both of which were included in the donation to the Guggenheim.

“We are grateful recipients of the gift of Comedian, a further demonstration of the artist’s deft connection to the history of modern art,” Richard Armstrong, the museum’s director, said to The New York Times. “Beyond which, it offers little stress to our storage.”

A woman poses for a photo next to a banana attached with duct-tape that replaces the artwork 'Comedian' by the artist Maurizio Cattelan, which was eaten by David Datuna, in Miami Beach, Florida. Reuters 
The work by the Italian artist caused a stir at Art Basel Miami Beach last December, with some admiring it and others criticising it. Reuters

Instructions on showcasing the banana stipulate that it must be angled at 37 degrees and taped 175 centimetres above the ground. The fruit must also be changed every seven to 10 days. The museum has not announced when it intends to display the work.

Cattelan, who is Italian, has produced little over the past few years, though the banana taped to a wall builds on his signature satirical style. In 2016, he unveiled his work America, an 18-carat solid gold toilet installed inside the Guggenheim’s bathrooms.

When Comedian went up at the Perrotin Gallery’s booth last year, Sarah Andelman, founder of high fashion retailer Colette, bought the first version. “It really reflects our time,” she said. “The absurdity of everything.”

Despite the criticism that came after its sale, the work managed to maintain its allure, with artist Damien Hirst expressing his desire to acquire it last month. He was even willing to trade any of his artworks for it or an artist’s proof. In the end, Hirst had to settle for an altered version of the piece, made not by Cattelan, but by curator Francesco Bonami.

One reason for the demand is that Cattelan’s works are rarely offered at art fairs. The last time they were was more than 15 years ago.

Updated: September 20, 2020 05:19 PM

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