That Banana on the Wall? At Art Basel Miami It’ll Cost You $120,000.


Remember when Morley Safer famously — controversially — asked on “60 Minutes” whether Marcel Duchamp’s urinal and Jeff Koons’s vacuum cleaners were really art? Now, in the spirit of such questions, comes Maurizio Cattelan’s (somewhat overripe) banana pinned to the wall with gray duct tape.

For three buyers at Art Basel Miami, who paid between $120,000 and $150,000 each for such pieces this week, the answer was unquestionably, Yes.

And two additional artist proofs (also bananas) are going to museums.

Needless to say, the bananas have prompted the very buzz that Mr. Cattelan has long been a master at generating (his golden toilet — recently stolen — being only the most immediate example).

While acknowledging that #cattelan was now a popular hashtag on Twitter — with people posting images of all sorts of items taped to the wall (a croissant, a lemon, Nutella) — Mr. Perrotin stood by the seriousness of the artist, with whom he has worked for 27 years. “Maurizio is a pure genius,” he said. “I see the magic happening on different occasions.”

And to those who question whether a banana taped to the wall constitutes art worthy of $120,000? “All artwork costs a lot of money,” Mr. Perrotin said. “They buy an idea, they buy a certificate.”

The purchase, Mr. Perrotin added, is part of the artwork. “If nobody buys it, nothing will happen,” he said. “The fact that somebody buys it makes the piece.”

One of the bananas was bought by Sarah Andelman, a founder of the Paris concept store Colette, which recently closed; it was her first major art purchase. “I knew it was going to be a phenomenon,” Ms. Andelman said in a telephone interview from Paris, “this banana on the wall.”

She said her husband, as a joke, had taped a banana to her desk when she returned from the fair. “I thought, ‘Wow, that was a fast delivery,’” Ms. Andelman quipped.

But humor aside, Ms. Andelman said she had no buyer’s remorse, having long admired Mr. Cattelan’s work. She plans to hang the certificate accompanying the banana in her office, if not perhaps the banana itself.

“It really reflects our time,” Ms. Andelman said, “the absurdity of everything.”


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