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Speaking to the man who ate the $120k banana at Art Basel Miami

‘I had eaten nothing else that day, and I didn’t eat anything after either. I didn’t eat this day because I wanted to keep just my art banana inside my stomach’

This week at Art Basel Miami a banana duct-taped to a wall attracted such large crowds that security had to move people on to “avoid anyone getting trampled.” That banana is Maurizio Cattelan’s piece entitled Comedian (2019) and so far he’s managed to sell two of three “editions” of it for $120,000 each: the third is expected to fetch $150,000 and is already attracting interest from museums.

Many were compelled, for whatever reason, to physically interact with the work – a local reporter from the Miami New Times who was covering the event said he overheard a “bewildered cop” tell someone that “people keep messing with the banana” – but one man went a little further and entirely removed the piece and then ate it with glee. “With respect Maurizio,” he said as he slowly peeled the fruit before raising it as if making a toast, “but it’s art performance. Hungry Artist”.

That man was David Datuna, a Georgian-born American artist living in New York City, whose work “explores the sources and meaning of cultural identity from each unique point of view,’’ according to his Instagram bio. David has just eaten, by some stretch, the most expensive banana ever to exist. But what drove him to do so? We caught up with him to find out. 

David, it’s a pleasure. First things first, what attracted you to Maurizio Cattelan’s piece?

David Datuna: I was a little bit hungry at the time. I had eaten nothing else that day, and I didn’t eat anything after either. I didn’t eat this day because I wanted to keep just my art banana inside my stomach. So now my body is 10% Maurizio Cattelan.

What did the banana taste like?

David Datuna: It’s going to be a very very short answer... just delicious. But not just the banana, it’s not about the banana, I didn’t eat the banana, I ate the installation of Maurizio Cattelan and he is delicious. 

“I didn’t eat the banana, I ate the installation of Maurizio Cattelan and he is delicious” – David Datuna

How easy was it to get to the banana?

David Datuna: There was no security because people were just all around taking photos, even when they came they had no chance to catch me because there was so many people around and I had time to finish eating it. 

What did security say when they finally got to you?

David Datuna: They just had a shock, everybody had shocked faces they don’t know what even to say. Security took all my information, the Gallery took all my information. I was thrown out.

What did you do with the tape?

David Datuna: Tape? I just messed it up and put it into some garbage. When you eat it’s the concept, it’s not about eating paper and banana. Banana can be artwork, like Duchamp’s toilet, it shocks people. Everybody is having the same shock now. How can this banana be an artwork for $100,000? That’s why I like it a lot.

“Banana can be artwork, like Duchamp’s toilet, it shocks people. Everybody is having the same shock now. How can this banana be an artwork for $100,000?” – David Datuna

Does this relate to your other works?

David Datuna: This has never happened in art history before. This is the first time when one artist has eaten another artist’s work. Everyone was scared because it happened for the first time in history, when one artist eats the idea and concept and art of another. It’s fun, no?

Within a few hours you’re probably going to take a $120,000 shit. How does that make you feel?

David Datuna: It’s in my body and It’ll be another form of installation once that’s done right? With a kind of artist shit. 

Have you heard from Maurizio yet?

David Datuna: No net yet.

Do you think he’s going to be a little upset?

David Datuna: I don’t think so, because I respect him, I love his art, and he has a lot of good humour in his work too. He’s very smart, he’s a genius and genius never gets upset. 

What about the Gallery?

David Datuna: I mean the gallery will be for sure. Because they’re all about money and they’re going to be worried about the sale now it’s gone. They were selling a concept but now the work embodying that concept is gone. But Maurizio, all his life is fun, all my life is fun, all he likes to do is to make people happy, and that’s the same about me. So I’m sure he’s not gonna be upset.

Are you worried you might be arrested?

David Datuna: When Trump was elected, two months before, I did an installation of my SOS flag in front of Trump tower, in front of the Capitol building, and the White House. I did an anti-Putin show in the Red Square in Moscow, so you think I’m scared by a banana performance? No.

You’ve got the attention of the world media with your stunt, is there anything in particular you were commenting on?

David Datuna: I like what I did. I do shows all the time so I’ll do something new very soon but I’m happy I did this.

Apart from a 100k banana, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve eaten?

David Datuna: Steak for $2,000 dollars. It was in London, some special place. For this banana I could have had 60 of those.

So you do have quite an expensive taste?

David Datuna: Listen, I’m an expensive artist also. 

A lot of people have noted the sale of Maurizio’s banana as being a particularly stark example of the inequality in the world. Is that something you thought about with this piece?

David Datuna: I know the situation because I travel a lot, for the last three years I’ve been to 57 countries, including very poor countries, but when I did this I was just thinking about Maurizio’s statement, and how I can answer for this. I think I picked a good answer.