Buffoon or genius? Meet Maurizio Cattelan, the controversial artist that shaked Art Basel Miami with a banana
One of his works, a gold toilet entitled "America", was stolen a few months ago in England. Is this Italian a successor to Duchamp or the Monty Pythons?
The art market is becoming more and more like its own parody. A few years ago, in ARCO Spain there were those who confused a fire extinguisher with a conceptual work; today we know that this kind of misunderstanding is not only plausible but perhaps profitable. And while there are those who predict that contemporary art is dead, those who really laugh are the artists themselves.
Maurizio Cattelan is the perfect example of this.
The artist was the big star in the Art Basel Miami with his work "Comedian," a ripe banana glued with adhesive tape which, according to the Parisian gallery Perrotin, took him "a year of work," and that has sold for $120,000, despite being devoured by the other artist, the Georgian American David Datuna, who took the opportunity to come out with a performance that he himself titled "Hungry Artist," leaving visitors stunned.
Man eats $120,000 #banana taped to wall at #Miami art exhibition.
A "hungry" artist caused a stir at an art show after he ate a piece by Italian artist Maurizio #Cattelan in front of an astonished crowd. https://t.co/VcJNAfZHqR pic.twitter.com/Q0bzl1BygQ
— Atlantide (@Atlantide4world) December 8, 2019
But what is the work? The fruit itself? The banana being digested by Datuna? Both? Or, as Perrotin argues, the idea of pasting it on the wall at a certain angle and the use of an appropriate color palette?
Judging by the scandal – and the fact that both Cattelan's second and third works increased their value to $150,000 and eclipsed the other works of the fair – what we really attended was not the funeral of contemporary art, as some say, but the death of irony.
Because many are unaware that Cattelan's banana was the tibias and skull of a pirate flag that has long hacked the international art market.
Famous for his provocation, the artist, who had already used the banana idea on a cover commissioned by New York Magazine, has been the creator of other extravagant works such as the gold toilet that was stolen last September from Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill's birthplace in Oxfordshire (England). "America, a fully functional 18-carat gold toilet" - its price ranged between 5 and 6 million dollars - could be used for 3 minutes on a reservation and those who decided to take it away ripped it out, according to the story, as if it were a urinal, in broad daylight.
Cattelan also made a sensation by installing a huge "fuck you" sleeve cut in front of the Milan Stock Exchange or making a controversial sculpture of Pope John Paul II being knocked down by a meteorite.