In one of Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s first shows in the early 1990s, he hung a crystal chandelier from the ceiling of a gallery in SoHo, and brought a live donkey in to wander around the room underneath it. The chandelier, he said, represented the world, while the donkey represented the artist. Regardless of the symbolism, the show closed after a single day, because the donkey-as-artist wouldn’t stop braying and shitting.
But by the early 21st century, Cattelan’s often provocative, always entertaining installations — like La Nona Ora, a sculpture of Pope John Paul II being crushed by a meteor, or America, an 18-karat solid-gold toilet — had earned him a retrospective at the Guggenheim.
In 2019, Cattelan infuriated your uncle and other armchair art critics with Comedian, an artwork that he displayed at Art Basel Miami Beach. The entire piece consisted of a banana that he duct taped to the wall of the gallery. It almost immediately sold for $120,000. A second and third banana were purchased, taped up, and also each sold for six figures. (One of the bananas was peeled from the wall and eaten by another artist, because of course it was.)
“Wherever I was traveling I had this banana on the wall. I couldn’t figure out how to finish it,” Cattelan told ArtNet about his early attempts to do…something banana-related. “In the end, one day I woke up and I said ‘the banana is supposed to be a banana.'”
Speaking of bananas, check out this goofy shit on our TikTok: