ARTNEWS: Is Maurizio Cattelan’s $120,000 Banana Sculpture a Cynical Sign of the Times or a Thrilling Artwork? Yes!

By Andrew Russeth


At the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on impeachment yesterday, the Republican’s expert witness, law professor Jonathan Turley, testified that everyone in America is “mad.” “My Republican friends are mad,” he said. “My Democratic friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog seems mad, and Luna is a goldendoodle and they don’t get mad.”

And Professor Turley had presumably not even heard about Maurizio Cattelan’s new sculpture.

As you may know by now, the semi-retired artist, whose last major creation was a golden toilet titled America (2016), has now taped a banana to a wall of Perrotin gallery’s booth at Art Basel Miami Beach, the glitzy bazaar that alights in that flood-endangered city every December. It is titled Comedian, and it is priced at $120,000. Three were available, and the first two apparently sold on opening day.


his has generated a fair amount of consternation and a mountain of headlines, as the artist and Perrotin no doubt anticipated. Just before the fair opened, as it happens, the gallery blasted out a press release noting that the banana is “Cattelan’s first time debuting new work for an art fair in over 15 years.” (Which is certainly a kind of milestone.) Fox News even did a story, naturally making it about Trump: “Artist behind anti-Trump gold toilet tapes banana to wall in expensive, wacky work.” (The Guggenheim, which first displayed the commode, offered it to the White House when it turned down its request for a van Gogh loan. It was stolen while on view in England earlier this year, and remains missing.)


For many, Comedian is an object lesson in the excesses of the art world, the absurdity of the art market, and the gaping wealth inequalities that now define the global economy. That’s all true and fair. In fact, pretty much any criticism you lob at the banana sticks: it’s lazy, it’s cynical, and it’s not even very original (whatever that means).



December 5, 2019
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