Looking at art can work up an appetite!
Around 1:45 p.m. local time on Saturday afternoon, performance artist David Datuna shocked Art Basel Miami Beach attendees by taking a new work from Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan — which consists of a banana fastened to a wall with duct-tape — and eating it.
Making things even crazier was the fact that the work in question had been sold to a private collector for $120,000, a spokeswoman for the Galerie Perrotin told NBC News.
Labeling the act an “art performance” called “Hungry Artist,” Datuna can be seen walking up to the work, removing the duct-tape and proceeding to eat the fruit in a video posted to the artist’s Instagram page.
“I love Maurizio Cattelan artwork and I really love this installation. It’s very delicious,” Datuna captioned a series of posts documenting the incident.
However, it turns out that even by literally eating the artwork, Datuna’s actions did nothing to change its value.
“He did not destroy the artwork,” gallery spokesman Lucien Terras told The Miami Herald, noting that the banana was always meant to be replaced when necessary. The outlet also noted that the work came with a certificate of authenticity, which was what collectors were really purchasing.
“Certificates of authenticity are crucial in the buying and selling of conceptual art,” gallery spokeswoman Katherine Wisniewski tells PEOPLE. “ ‘Comedian’ has a COA that contains exact instructions for installation and authenticates that the work is by Maurizio Cattelan. Without a COA, a piece of conceptual artwork is nothing more than its material representation.”
Cattelan made “Comedian” in 3 editions, the spokesperson added, noting that the editions sold for between $120-$150K.
Around 2:00 p.m. local time on Saturday, gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin and an assistant re-adhered another banana to the wall, according to the Miami Herald.
“Let’s find another banana,” Perrotin can be heard saying in a video shared on Datuna’s account. “He did not eat the banana, it’s a banana.”
Miami Beach police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez confirmed to PEOPLE that no arrests were made, nor did they have any interactions with Datuna.
A spokesperson for the gallery also confirmed to The New York Times that no legal action was being taken against Datuna. “It’s all in good spirits,” the spokesperson said. “Perrotin is not pressing any legal charges.”
Poking fun at the situation, on Saturday, Perrotin posted a photo of himself standing beside a banana taped to the wall on an airplane.
“On the way to Berlin… obviously with a banana. Thanks to @artbasel for your understanding. Sorry for the mess. But please let’s keep the Banana until the end of the show on my booth,” he wrote.
However, on Sunday it was announced that “Comedian” was being removed from the art show.
“This morning at 9am, following recommendations, we removed the installation,” he wrote on Instagram. “The installation caused several uncontrollable crowd movements and the placement of the work on our booth compromised the safety of the artwork around us, including that of our neighbors.”
“When Maurizio first told me about his idea, I never once anticipated that it could become what it is today. ‘Comedian,’ with its simple composition, ultimately offered a complex reflection of ourselves,” he added. “I am eternally grateful to Maurizio for entrusting me with the display of this watershed conceptual work.”
The idea behind the banana is to represent how bananas are “a symbol of global trade, a double entendre, as well as a classic device for humor,” hence Cattelan’s name for the piece, Perrotin previously told CNN.
The artist was first inspired to make “Comedian” a year ago.
“Back then, Cattelan was thinking of a sculpture that was shaped like a banana,” Perrotin shared in a press release, according to CNN. “Every time he traveled, he brought a banana with him and hung it in his hotel room to find inspiration. He made several models: first in resin, then in bronze and in painted bronze (before) finally coming back to the initial idea of a real banana.”
In September, Cattelan also made headlines when his piece “America” — an 18-carat gold toilet valued at approximately $1.25 million — was stolen from Blenheim Palace, England.
The golden john, which went on public display at the ancestral home of Winston Churchill, was stolen one night in September after burglars broke into the palace, causing “significant damage and flooding,” according to the Thames Valley Police.