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At Art Basel in Miami Beach last December, artist Maurizio Catttelan sold a banana duct-taped to the wall for $120,000. The piece was titled “Comedian,” and in a comical turn of events, it was eaten by performance artists David Datuna

 

Three people bought the artwork, but because it’s a real banana, they actually received a certificate for the art. As the artwork is easily replicable, the certificate proves authenticity. Similar to Sol LeWitt, who sold instructions on how to make his art, rather than the art itself, the value of the piece is due to the idea of the piece.

This is not a new idea, as Readymades, art pieces that are mass-produced or not intended as art, were popularized by Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain in 1917. Duchamp received criticism for simply turning a urinal on its side, signing it “R. Mutt,” and calling it art. At the time, even people in the art world, like critics and dealers, had difficulties expanding their definitions of what constituted art.

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Fountain

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This difficulty of expanding definitions is continued today, with the general public’s confusion as to why anyone would pay $120,000 for a rotting banana. Though literally anyone can duct tape a banana to the wall, the part that makes it “art” is the idea behind the banana, and that Cattelan had thought to do it. It was not a last-minute decision; Cattelan had been playing with the idea of creating a banana sculpture from different materials and brought along a real banana with him to hotel rooms to help him gather inspiration, according to Vogue. Eventually, he decided to use the real banana as his art piece.

In modern and contemporary art, the technique and appearance of the art are just as valuable and important as the idea behind the art. Many people have polished and realistic techniques that were praised in the past, but fewer people have the ability to come up with provoking and interesting ideas that lead to high price tags and critical acclaim.

 

We’ve long moved past the technique focused period of the Renaissance, accepted the “unfinished” style of the Impressionists, and come to value Cubists like Picasso and Georges Braque. It might take a few more decades, but soon, hopefully, modern art like Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, and Maurizio Cattelan become more accepted and appreciated as well.

 

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Angelina is a sophomore at Boston University, majoring in Public Relations. Originally from the Bay Area, California, she is currently still adjusting to experiencing real seasons. Her hobbies include looking for cheap flights, listening to "Why'd You Push that Button," and going to Trader Joe's.
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