The Brief: An art piece of a banana duct-taped to a wall sold for $120,000 at Art Basel Miami Beach before a performance artist ate it and the wall was later vandalized with the message "Epstein didn't kill himself," inspiring many spin-off memes.
Although they may seem quite disparate, internet memes and contemporary art often collide both conceptually and literally. Just as Andy Warhol’s pop-art related to popular culture, memes and high art often riff off each other in both direct and indirect ways. The art world and the meme world have been buzzing since Saturday when an art piece at Art Basel Miami Beach consisting of an overripe banana duct-taped to a wall sold for $120,000 and was then eaten by a performance artist.
Created by artist Maurizio Cattelan, the piece, titled “Comedian,” is reminiscent of both Duchamp’s “Fountain” and Warhol’s Velvet Underground album cover. Three buyers paid between $120,000 and $150,000 for limited-edition pieces featuring a single banana, including certificates of authenticity and replacement instructions.
On Saturday, while the gallery was full of visitors, performance artist David Datuna took the banana off the wall, peeled it, and ate it, saying “I’m a hungry artist.” He posted a video of the occurrence to Instagram where he titled the performance “Hungry Artist” and called the banana “very delicious.”
Although video footage showed Datuna being escorted from the gallery, a spokesperson for the gallery stated that they will not be pressing charges. Gallery officials replaced the eaten banana with a new one, noting that the artwork is an “idea” rather than mere single piece of fruit. If anything, Datuna’s stunt likely brought “Comedian” more publicity and fame than it would have received if it stayed on the wall.
On Sunday, the day after Datuna ate the banana, someone wrote, “Epstein didnt kill himself” with lipstick the wall where “Comedian” was. Roderick Webbe admitted to writing the message and was arrested on charges of criminal mischief.
The duct-taped banana at Art Basel is gone and has been replaced with “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself,” which security quickly covered up. 😂 pic.twitter.com/nPtnuCm6sc
— Giancarlo Sopo (@GiancarloSopo) December 9, 2019
Art Basel Duct Tape Banana Memes
Many memes have responded to this series of events in dialogue with the art piece and the way a simple duct-taped banana was received as a piece of extremely valuable high art. Dozens of variations show other objects duct-taped to walls, while others add the banana to other famous works of art and crack jokes about the absurdity of the whole event.
Silver Kanye meets Art Basel Banana:
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Brands Hop On Board
Just as they did with Bansky’s self-shredding piece, many brands from high fashion houses to restaurant chains have created variations of the piece with their own product at front and center. As almost anything can be duct-taped to a wall, these riffs include a wide variety of topical product placement.
Much more affordable than $120,000 AND you can drink it afterwards 🤷🏻♀️ pic.twitter.com/HcUSVu4mKq
— The Glenlivet 🥃 (@TheGlenlivet_US) December 9, 2019