The world cannot stop talking about Maurizio Cattelan’s banana. Ever since the Italian artist unveiled his infamous fruit-taped-to-a-wall readymade at Art Basel in 2019, it’s been a subject of almost constant controversy, and not only for its extortionate $120,000 price tag. See: the first time the banana was eaten by a performance artist, or the time it was defaced with red lipstick reading “Epstein didn’t kill himself”, or the 2022 lawsuit that claimed Cattelan had stolen the idea from the lesser-known artist Joe Morford.
Now, the banana (or, to use its official title, Comedian) has made headlines once again, during an exhibition at the Leeum Museum of Art in Seoul, South Korea. More specifically, another bystander has plucked the organic artwork off the gallery wall to enjoy as a tasty snack.
In a video released from the scene of the crime, South Korean art student Noh Huyn-soo can be seen removing the banana from where it’s duct-taped on the white gallery wall, peeling it, and eating it over the course of a full minute. While onlookers were apparently shocked, he manages to swallow the full fruit without being apprehended, then sticks the peel back onto the wall.
When asked by the museum why he committed such a heinous act, Noh simply said that he was hungry after skipping breakfast, according to the Korea Herald. During a later interview with the broadcaster KBS, however, he added that damaging a work of art can itself be seen as an artwork (as argued by the first masterpiece masticator David Datuna), saying: “I thought it would be interesting … isn’t it taped there to be eaten?”
That’s a good question, tbh – isn’t it taped there to be eaten? That would certainly explain why no one stepped in to stop Noh Huyn-soo in the act of consuming Comedian, an act that only adds to its chequered history (and presumably, therefore, its value as a work of conceptual art). Plus, it doesn’t really matter in a material sense, since the banana is replaced every couple of days anyway, to keep it from rotting on the gallery wall.
When Cattelan himself was informed of the banana’s demise in South Korea, he seemed to support this theory, simply responding: “No problem.” The Leeum Museum of Art has said it won’t seek damages against the student.