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Leon Zhan banana sneakers
via Instagram (@leon_zhan)

Meet the artist who stuck bananas to Nike AF1s for the #content

After a duct-taped banana caught everyone’s attention at Miami Art Basel, this 19-year-old took the trend and made it fashion

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or at least not living obsessively online), you might have noticed a lot of bananas floating around recently – or duct-taped to walls to be exact. At Art Basel in Miami last week, artist Maurizio Cattelan created an instantly viral moment when he taped a banana to a wall, and, in the time since, many of us have been trying to get that #content by recreating this very important moment in art history.  

From Jacquemus sticking his tiny yellow bag to a wall and the Dazed team making its very own special edition Art Basel-inspired magazine, to Christopher Kane getting out the SEX tape to create his own iteration of the artwork, also taking inspiration from Cattelan’s concept was 19-year-old artist Leon Zhan, who gave a pair of Nike Air Force 1s a fruity upgrade. 

“This was me trolling the troll who is trolling the art world,” Zhan explains when asked what led him to create the trainer. “When I first saw the work I instantly knew what I had to do.”

Describing himself as a ‘creator of all things’, the Australian artist first started putting the fruit onto AF1s all the way back in July, when he began painting Andy Warhol-styled bananas in the shape of ticks on the side of Nike sneakers and posting them online. It was only when a friend wanted to buy the shoes and couldn’t afford them that he jokingly suggested using sticky tape a real banana on instead. “Little did I know that a few months later this whole Art Basel banana saga would happen and what was originally a joke would actually come to fruition (pun intended),” he laughs. 

“The fact that a fucking banana taped to a wall was sold for $120k is so ridiculous that it’s brilliant” - Leon Zhan

Although Zhan came up with the idea originally, he still, like most of us, thought the art installation was a joke. “The fact that a fucking banana taped to a wall was sold for $120k is so ridiculous that it’s brilliant… It’s both hilarious and insane to see that this is the reality of the art market we artists play in,” he says. 

Despite explaining he is his own creative inspiration, there is still one person he wants to see in his banana trainers. Who? None other than Art Basel Miami sweetheart number two, Kanye West. “It would just be the most absurd thing ever. I’d probably need to tape them to some Yeezys though.” 

While we are still yet to see West in a pair of the customised AF1s (he’s probably still busy washing the silver paint off), Zhan’s trainers have gained a lot of attention. “You’ve literally got bananas hanging off the sides of your sneakers, but recontextualising it into something wearable on a sneaker gives it a new perspective, which people actually find aesthetically commendable and conceptually valid.” 

Planning to go onto to study Fine Arts and intent on creating more art with trainers, Zhan’s banana was not subject to a similar fate - “I actually ate the bananas on my sneakers afterwards,” he confirms. What better metaphor for the strange nature of viral art?