Student eats banana worth over £90,000 taped to art gallery wall

The aftermath of a student eating Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan's 'Comedian' off the wall at the Leeum Museum of Art in Seoul, South Korea.
Versions of Maurizio Cattelan's 'Comedian' have sold for $120,000. Credit: Instagram/Shwan.Han

A banana taped to the wall of an art gallery in Seoul was eaten by a student who said he’d skipped breakfast.

Noh Huyn-soo, an art student from Seoul National University, looked content and unashamed as he was filmed eating the fruit - part of an exhibition by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan.

He had a smile on his face and went unchallenged as he munched on the banana, and was shown re-attaching the skin back onto the wall using the same piece of tape before walking away.

Valued at $120,000 (£96,000), the piece, titled “Comedian”, turned out to be a very expensive snack.

The student initially told staff at Seoul’s Leeum Museum of Art that he was hungry when he decided to eat the banana.

However, he later told local news outlet KBS that if Cattelan’s work was intended as an act of rebellion against a certain authority, then "there could be another rebellion against the rebellion."

In other words, the student argued that by eating the installation, he was performing his own piece of art.

"It happened suddenly, so no special action was taken. The artist was informed of the incident but he didn't have any reaction to it," a museum spokesperson told CNN.

Comedian, of which there are three versions, generated waves across the art world after one of the installations sold for $120,000 at the Art Basel Miami Beach show in December 2019.

After the first edition sold performance artist David Datuna was shown picking the banana of the display and eating it in front of stunned onlookers.

At the time he wrote on his Instagram: "I really love this installation. It's very delicious."

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He later defended the stunt as a work of art in itself and insisted it was not an act of vandalism.

Describing the concept of Cattelan’s Comedian, Emmanuel Perrotin, founder of the Paris-based Perrotin art gallery, previously said that bananas are "a symbol of global trade, a double entendre, as well as a classic device for humour."

He added that Cattelan turns mundane objects into "vehicles of both delight and critique."

A replacement banana has been put in place at the display at the Leeum Museum of Art, which is on show until July 16 and is part of Cattelan’s solo exhibition, WE.

Bananas on display at galleries are replaced every two to three days, and those who’ve bought versions of the artwork can replace them as they see fit.

Originally Cattelan cast the fruit in materials including bronze and resin in an attempt to find inspiration for a sculpture and took around a year to arrive at his idea.

He told ArtNet: "Wherever I was travelling I had this banana on the wall. I couldn’t figure out how to finish it.

"In the end, one day I woke up and I said ‘the banana is supposed to be a banana'."