That much for a banana?
Why a Florida couple paid $120,000 for a banana duct-taped to a wall
The banana duct-taped to the wall is the most recent piece of “weird” art that sold for a staggering $120,000. Some may think, “Stupid, right?” However weird or quirky an art piece is, it always has a backstory as to why it was created in the first place. When picturing modern art, one might think of a twisting metal sculpture or an abstract painting. Then, almost always, they will think of the price tag attached to that piece of art and immediately think, “They sold that piece of art for that much money? I could’ve done that.”
However true that might be, artists aren’t simply trying to create an impressive piece. They’re taking a risk and doing something different. Sometimes, it flops. Other times, it changes the art world’s perspective on art as a whole. So why are some pieces of art viewed as masterpieces when someone who paints the same type of image gets no recognition?
“Because he thought of it in 1946 and you didn’t,” said Minnehaha art teacher Nathan Stromberg. “A lot of people judge modern art based on if they could do it or not which doesn’t take into account what it means culturally.”
People are so quick to write off art like Jackson Pollock’s “Number 17A” as simply a mass of lines and dashes. However, if they delve into the climate of the 1940s art world and grasp what was truly going on, they might be quick to change their minds.
“In the art world, Jackson Pollock makes a lot of people angry because his art is seemingly random splatters of paint,” said Stromberg. “But in terms of what was happening in 1946, it was an age where abstract art was a big thing and he was the first one to say maybe you don’t have to paint an object at all.”
Why are pieces of art in the modern-day so incredibly expensive? Owning a painting that was created by someone like Leonardo da Vinci or Picasso has its merit. However, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” sold for just over $450 million in 2017, which is a hefty chunk of change for some paint on a canvas. A normal person might see that as a waste. The buyers of the paintings don’t think so.
“Since the 1980s, it has escalated and has become a way for the uber-wealthy to try and get a return on their investment,” said Stromberg. “Nowadays, especially with the internet, you can drum up so much support for a particular name that everybody wants to buy whatever is going to be the next sensation because that gives it value.”
Art in the modern age isn’t simply a picture for a billionaire to look at or a statue for them to impress people. It’s an investment. Buying paintings done by elite artists throughout history will undoubtedly go up in price as the years go by. However, some artists try and manipulate that system not only for more money but to send a message.
“Some of the most preposterous pieces of art at auctions are actually a result of artists manipulating [the buyers] intentionally, not only to make more money but to comment on how stupid the whole thing is,” said Stromberg.
Art is created for meaning and craftsmanship. It’s created to give the world a splash of culture and value. Nowadays, it has turned into a way to make millions of dollars by reselling famous pieces which is something the artists don’t take to kindly.
To retaliate against the buying and reselling of art for profit, artists are making statements with their new pieces. Maurizio Cattelan, the creator of the banana duct-taped to a wall, is a contemporary artist and has a satirical approach to art. He has been labeled by many as the joker of the art world.
“For them, it’s more about the statement,” said Stromberg. “If you can sucker somebody into buying a piece of duct tape and a banana for $120,000, what does that say about the art world right now?”
The couple that bought the banana duct-taped to a wall, Billy and Beatrice Cox, have spoken out about their decision to buy Cattelan’s piece. Their reasoning for buying the piece boils down to what kind of effect the piece will have in the future.
“We are acutely aware of the blatant absurdity of the fact that Comedian is an otherwise inexpensive and perishable piece of produce and a couple of inches of duct tape,” the Cox couple told the Miami Herald. “We knew we were taking a risk, but ultimately we sense that Cattelan’s banana will become an iconic historical object.”
Other artists, such as Banksy, a street artist in England, have been protesting the buying and selling of art for profit since the 1990s. He’s anonymous and his art contains lots of dark humor and epigrams.
“Banksy is a British street artist who does graffiti,” said Stromberg. “No one actually knows who he is or if he’s more than one person. He famously pulled a stunt where he embedded a shredder into the frame of the art piece so when the auctioneer said sold, the piece shredded itself in front of everyone.”
The world of art has undergone a significant shift in the last few decades. In the modern-day, art has become more of a tool for buying and selling to get a return on their “investment” and in this day and age, artists aren’t too thrilled with that fact.
Art has always been about changing the culture and thinking of new, different ways to put brush to canvas and many artists are doing their best to try and revert the art world to its roots.