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Comedian (2019) Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin
Maurizio CattelanComedian (2019) Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin

Epstein truther who defaced Art Basel banana installation goes to court

Rod Webber vandalised the gallery wall after another person ate the original $120,000 artwork

Maurizio Cattelan’s banana duct-taped to a gallery wall caused a viral storm when it debuted at Miami Art Basel in December. Not only did the artwork, entitled Comedian (2019), provoke debate comparable to a Banksy stunt and crowds so large security had to move people on to “avoid anyone getting trampled”, it also spawned two ‘performance artworks’ in response – one of which has now landed the artist behind it in court.

Artist David Datuna was responsible for the first stunt, when he decided to eat the $120,000 banana installation. At the time, he told Dazed he was “a little bit hungry at the time”. “I didn’t eat this day because I wanted to keep just my art banana inside my stomach. So now my body is 10 per cent Maurizio Cattelan”, he explained. 

Gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin subsequently decided to remove Comedian from view because of the dangerously large crowds it was attracting. The blank space on the wall soon became a canvas for another work of art – or vandalism, depending on your point of view – when Rod Webber scrawled ‘EPSTEIN DIDN’T KILL HIMSELF’ in red lipstick on the site. 

A video posted on Webber’s personal website captured the full performance, and the immediate aftermath, which shows the artist introducing himself to the crowd of onlookers and security officers as “Epsteindidn’tkillhimself Webber, some people call me Rod,” and insisting on his right to create a new work of art. The Miami Beach Police Department clearly didn’t agree, swiftly arresting Webber. 

Speaking at his arraignment hearing outside the Miami Beach Courthouse yesterday (January 2), Webber posted another video to his website arguing that because Datuna was never charged for his performance, his arrest points to a “double standard” in the legal system. Webber has written to Datuna asking him to aid his fight, claiming that “without the gallery, or someone like yourself speaking out on my behalf, I will be put on trial. As a result, a judge or a jury may be put in a position to legally decide what is and isn’t art.”

The Epstein truther continued his plea by saying that his legal battle posed a “Sisphysian” task, adding: “it is a battle I am willing to fight— not just for myself— but so that if Marcel Duchamp were to walk into Art Basel next year, he would not be ashamed of his legacy.”

Webber is set to appear in court again in February later this year.