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Art student eats Maurizio Cattelan's banana at Leeum

By Kim Hae-yeon

Published : April 30, 2023 - 15:56

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"Comedian" by Maurizio Cattelan at Leeum Museum of Art (courtesy of Leeum Museum of Art)

Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan's iconic art piece -- a ripe banana duct-taped onto a wall -- on display at an art museum in Seoul, was eaten by a college student in an act which he described as "artwork."

The student ate the banana from Cattelan's "Comedian" at around 1 p.m., Thursday. The work is part of Cattelan's solo exhibition “WE” currently running at the Leeum Museum of Art, according to the private museum.

At the exhibition showing some 38 works by Cattelan from the 1990s, the student took the banana from the piece, peeled it and ate it on site and then reattached only the banana peel back to the wall using the existing tape.

When the museum asked why he had eaten it, the student, who is an art major at Seoul National University, replied that he had skipped breakfast and was hungry.

In a phone interview later with a local broadcaster, the student confessed that he thought “damaging a work of modern art could also be (interpreted as a kind of) artwork,” adding that he came up with the idea to reattach the banana peel, thinking it was a fun way of looking at it.

Cattelan's banana is being replaced every two to three days, according to the artist's instructions, provided before the exhibition. The museum has decided not to claim damages against the student.

Meanwhile, this is not the first incident of its kind. In 2019, a performance artist named David Datuna took the banana from "Comedian" on display at the Perrotin at Art Basel in Miami minutes after it was sold for $120,000 and ate it. A video of Datuna eating the banana with great relish went viral on social media.

The artist's first solo exhibition in Korea at the Leeum Museum of Art runs through July 16.