Art Basel's $120,000 banana 'thief' speaks out: 'I'm a hungry artist'
An artist who plucked a banana worth $120,000 from the wall at Miami Beach’s Art Basel and ate it – the day before someone else scrawled a message about Jeffrey Epstein on the wall in its place – said Monday he did it because he "wanted to make fun of the art society."
New York City-based David Datuna waltzed up to satirical artist Maurizio Cattelan's “Comedian,” which had already been sold for the whopping amount, on Saturday and pulled the duct tape from the wall before unpeeling the banana and taking a bite.
“Art performance, hungry artist," he said, taking one bite, and then another. “With respect, Mauricio, but it’s art performance.”
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Datuna posted three videos of the “performance” and its aftermath on his Instagram page.
“I did this because it’s about art, art about fun. He makes fun of us, I make fun of him. So, we’re even now," he said, when reached by phone by FOX Business. “Art, contemporary, is about concept … all about concept. My performance is also about concept. He put [a] question mark, if banana can be art. I put my question mark on the top of his question mark.”
Datuna, who was in Miami Beach to exhibit artwork of his own, noted that he has never met Cattelan but respects him. Nonetheless, Datuna said he and his friends then wanted to do something crazier than the fellow artist's work.
“I spoke with my many friends and everybody [was] thinking, ‘Oh my God, what next you can do to beat this?’ To be more crazy?” he said. "All [the] art world was just thinking what kind of answer we could give to him."
Gallery officials called the police, who took Datuna's information but ultimately released him without an arrest. While the Georgia-born artist has not been charged, he's not out yet out of hot water.
"I don’t know what’s going to [happen] tomorrow," he said. Still, he said, “I have emotions inside, I wanted to make fun of the art society and I did it.”
The next day, a different person used red lipstick to write on the wall: "Epstien (sic) didn't kill himself," according to posts on social media and the Miami Herald.
The person, identified as a 46-year-old Rod Webber, was arrested around 5 p.m. Sunday and charged with criminal mischief, the Herald reported.
“If someone can eat the $120,000 banana and not get arrested, why can’t I write on the wall?” Webber allegedly said as police led him out of the building. The Massachusetts resident took a video while he wrote on the wall and even before as he discussed his initial plans.
“There’s no prohibition on makeup,” he said, midway through the video, which he later posted on his Facebook page. He then turned the camera to face him and started writing. “Just doin’ a little art … they’ve set precedent here, right? This is the gallery where anyone can do art, right?”
After finishing and speaking briefly to facility officials, he waved to the gathered crowd and said: “My name is ‘Epstein didn’t kill himself’ Webber.”
It wasn't vandalism. It's art.
"Comedian" was Cattelan’s first installation at any art fair – nevermind world-famous Art Basel – in 15 years, according to Artnet news reporter Sarah Cascone. After the first banana was sold, a second buyer purchased a new edition for the same price, prompting Cattelan and Art Basel founder Emmanuel Perrotin to raise the price to $150,000.
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Cattelan told Cascone "the banana is supposed to be a banana."
“Wherever I was traveling, I had this banana on the wall. I couldn’t figure out how to finish it,” he said, according to Cascone. “In the end, one day I woke up and I said, ‘The banana is supposed to be a banana.'”