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

The Art Basel banana vandaliser won’t face criminal charges

Rod Webber, who scrawled ‘EPSTEIN DIDNT KILL HIMSELF’ on the booth wall, has been cleared

American performance artist Rob Webber will not face any legal repercussions for damaging Maurizio Cattelan's banana-duct-taped-to-a-wall installation (officially titled “Comedian”, 2019) in a now notorious incident at Miami Art Basel back in December.

After artist David Datuna ate one of the three editions of the $120k banana – later confessing to Dazed it was because he was “a little bit hungry” – gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin decided not to show the remaining banana and left an empty space where the artwork once was. Webber then went on to stage his own ‘performance’, by writing “EPSTEIN DIDN’T KILL HIMSELF” on the then-vacant wall, in reference to the conspiracies surrounding the suicide of accused sexual predator, paedophile, and financier Jeffrey Epstein.

With comparisons to Marcel Duchamp’s “Urinal”, “Comedian” was so divisive that it drew the largest crowds at the fair. People flocked to Perrotin gallery’s booth to take selfies as the art world split over the age-old question: what is art?

After Webber’s arrest, the state of Miami pressed charges against the artist for criminal mischief. But during a court appearance on Wednesday 26 February, Webber’s charges were dismissed because Art Basel refused to participate in the case. Talking to The Miami Herald, Webber told reporters: “I think this is a big victory for art … they can’t decide what art is.”

In other banana-related news, Datuna recently launched an “interactive food show” called Hungry Artist (in relation to the original drama), that will be shown at New York’s Ca’ d’Oro gallery.

Relive the Art Basel banana drama below.