By Howard Cohen and Siobhan Morrissey
MIAMI – Someone ate a really expensive snack at Art Basel Saturday afternoon – to the tune of $120,000.
For one banana.
By now you have probably heard of the now world-famous banana duct-taped to Emmanuel Perrotin's outer gallery wall at Art Basel Miami Beach. The piece that sold to an art collector for $120,000.
The $120,000 banana – a real, rather ripe and edible one – is the work of Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and titled "Comedian." The work comes with a Certificate of Authenticity, and owners are told that they can replace the banana, as needed.
Instructions on how to replace the banana are not included.
But New York-based performance artist David Datuna ate the banana at around 1:45 p.m. in front of a convention center full of art lovers, according to gallery representatives.
While the banana was indeed consumed, apparently that doesn't diminish the integrity of the six-figure art work, said Lucien Terras, director of museum relations for Galerie Perrotin.
"He did not destroy the art work. The banana is the idea," Terras said.
We were, too, but that's where the Certificate of Authenticity comes in. Collectors are buying the certificate. The banana is not made to last.
"This has brought a lot of tension and attention to the booth and we're not into spectacles," Terras added. "But the response has been great. It brings a smile to a lot of people's faces."
Gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin was about to head to the airport when he heard that the banana was eaten. He darted to the space, clearly upset. A fairgoer tried to cheer him up and handed him his own banana.
Perrotin and a gallery assistant re-adhered the borrowed banana to the wall just after 2 p.m.
According to Peggy Leboeuf, a partner at Perrotin Gallery, a startled, and bemused, a woman in the crowd thought the original artist – Cattelan – was eating his own banana off the wall. But that wasn't the case. When she saw Datuna eating the banana, which still had some duct tape on it, she asked him what he was doing.
Datuna allegedly responded he was a performance artist. "But you're not supposed to touch the art!" Leboeuf told Datuna.
The London-based White Cube gallery in the booth next door to Perrotin removed a floor installation because the crowd to see the banana was just overwhelming.
Perrotin installed a silver rope line in an attempt to keep the crowd in check Saturday afternoon. Four Miami Beach police officers also gathered outside the gallery to keep order.
"That banana has been more photographed than the Mona Lisa," remarked Terras.
'"This has been interesting," said Miami Beach police Capt. Steven Feldman. When asked if he had ever heard of someone deliberately destroying artwork at the fair, he said, "Not that I can remember."
He noted it was a balancing act to accommodate the crowd.
"The gallery is OK with people taking pictures of the banana. It is a delicate balancing act. We just want to make sure the area is secure," said Feldman.
For what Cattelan's banana fetches, Datuna could have bought 631,579 bananas at Trader Joe's, which sells bananas for .19 cents each.
The gallery reported the incident to security, but Datuna was not arrested.