“Comedian” 2019, Maurizio Cattelan, Banana and Tape, 7 9/16 x 7 ⅞ x 1 ¼ inches, 3/3 + 2 AP
Has the art world gone “Bananas”? If you heard that the $120,000 banana taped to the wall sold, not once, not twice, but three times, you are correct. Does this mean the art world has gone mad or Art Basel has become a hub of the absurd? Yes and no. Madness, or shall we say ‘creativity’, has infused and propelled the art world for decades. This is just another example of artists expanding the definition of art, for within the same halls as the banana there are the timeless masterworks of Picasso, Avery, Lichtenstein, Chagall, Dubuffet and many other influential artists.
The art world has always pushed boundaries. From Marcel Duchamp’s famous urinal that he declared art, to Jeff Koons’ vacuums and the observers who still scratch their heads over Gerard Richter’s red “Mirror” and Lucio Fontana’s sliced canvases, the art world has embraced it all. Picasso and Warhol also made the world question what is and what isn’t art. They made people laugh with their irreverence (one of Picasso’s notable jokes was signing a counterfeit etching of his so many times because “I can paint false Picassos just as well as anybody”). The art world embraces the wacky to the sophisticated.
Maurizio Cattelan’s banana properly titled “Comedian” is another way to keep the art world pulsing and to bring your everyday person into the conversation (I think we can all agree that a temporary reprieve from political drama is appreciated). Even if you have never heard of Yves Klein or Ed Ruscha, this banana has brought an entire uninitiated crowd into the art conversation. Cattelan is no stranger to controversies and while this may not be his most intricate work, it is pretty original and has gotten him back in the spotlight of the art world just as he did in 2016 when he came out of retirement with his 18-karat golden toilet, “America”. While it was in the Guggenheim, over one hundred thousand people waited in line to have their private “moment’’. So, yes, if you wonder is it real, it is and so are the three who buyers paid $120,000 - $150,000 for their banana and duct tape edition of “Comedian”. While this particular work may not be for every collector, other works of Cattelan’s are included in some significant collections such as his sculpture of Pablo Picasso which has been a fixture in one of our local pre-eminent collector’s living room for many years. What is old is new, what is absurd is real and the art world will always keep drawing us back in. As Warhol said, “Everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame”.