Comedian (2019), a sculptural intervention by Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan that consists of a banana affixed to the gallery wall with duct tape, has lost none of its a-peel. On 27 April, an art student from Seoul National University who was visiting the Cattelan exhibition WE at Seoul’s Leeum Museum of Art removed the banana from the wall, ate it and then taped the peel back to the wall.
The student, later identified as Noh Huyn-soo, told Korean broadcaster KBS that “damaging a work of modern art could also be (interpreted as a kind of) artwork”, according to Korea Herald. Noh told museum workers that he had skipped breakfast that day and was hungry. He added, “Isn’t it taped there to be eaten?”
Video of the incident shows him eating the work with minimal protests and no intervention from museum staff. During its display at the museum, Comedian’s banana is reportedly replaced every two to three days. Informed of the incident, Cattelan told BBC News, “No problem at all.”
This is not the first time another artist has seized upon the potential for interactivity in Cattelan’s irreverent work. During its first public display at the Art Basel in Miami Beach fair in 2019, the performance artist David Datuna similarly ate the banana, dubbing his act a performance, titled Hungry Artist. It became the focal point of his solo show the following February at New York’s Ca’d Oro gallery.
Three editions of Comedian, which sparked a global media frenzy—with reactions to the work ranging from humour and memes to outrage and indignation—sold for $120,000 during Art Basel in Miami Beach. The following year, one of those editions was gifted to the Guggenheim Museum in New York. It is unclear who loaned the edition on view in Maurizio Cattelan: WE (until 16 July) at the Leeum Museum of Art, but the work is evidently still ripe for comedy.