In December, 2019, a banana made news headlines.

The banana in question, a work by contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan was presented by international Art gallery owner, Emmanuel Perrotin, at the 2019 Art Basel Miami Beach exposition.

A conceptual piece; “Comedian” made an impact as sudden and irresistible as seeing someone slip on a banana peel and topple in spectacular fashion to the ground (my apologies…I just could not resist). Crowds of people lined up for an opportunity to take selfies with the piece, and within days, parody images were being posted on the internet by people far and wide.

Part of the energy behind the reaction to this piece is, no doubt, the reported price paid for 3 editions: $120,000.00 (US) for the first two sold, and $150,000.00 for the third.

The buyers claim to understand that the perishable objects themselves hold little value, but that the concept and the accompanying certificate of authenticity are where the true value resides (not to mention the ensuing fame for everyone involved).

This story strikes me as all too familiar: “artist” produces something baffling, “buyer” pays astronomical price, gasps of disbelief and media headlines follow. (Who among us doesn’t enjoy feeling a little outrage now and then…like yelling at the game referee who appears not to see the transgressions of the visiting team?)

However, in the current media environment of seemingly continual disinformation warfare (i.e.: “Fake News”, propaganda, lies, etc.), I find myself casting a critical eye towards that which I would previously have accepted without question. In this particular case I have trouble believing the high prices reportedly paid for this work.

Having people believe you paid $120,000.00 for something would imply that you are so wealthy that such an amount might be considered “disposable”. Having people believe a gallery received $120,000.00 for the sale of a work would imply that the gallery is “special”…perhaps only for the rich and famous. Having people believe that anything a particular artist produces is worth $120,000.00 (US) or more to somebody somewhere implies that the artist’s other “work” might also be worth huge amounts of cash.

But what if none of that were true? What if the “story” that everyone seems so willing to believe turned out to be a carefully constructed and concealed lie? Those involved in the transaction; the artist, the dealer and the buyers benefit directly in one way or another from the mere idea of such vast sums changing hands (whether the sums reported are correct or not).

Over a third of a million dollars US for 3 bananas and less than one roll of duct tape?….call me cynical…call me jaded….just don’t call me late for dinner.

– Dorian Melton CVPAG Newsletter Editor, PR Chair