A banana taped to a wall by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan was removed from its display at Art Basel Miami Beach after "several uncontrollable crowd movements", including someone eating it.
Cattelan's piece, called Comedian, was presented by Galerie Perrotin during the Art Basel fair in Miami last week where two of its three editions sold to collectors for $120,000 each – equivalent to £91,000.
On Saturday, performance artist David Datuna ripped the banana off the wall and then ate it. Datuna posted a video of himself eating the piece to his Instagram, naming the performance "Hungry Artist".
"I love Maurizio Cattelan artwork and I really love this installation. It's very delicious," he said in the caption.
Banana removed after safety is compromised
The gallery then replaced the banana with another one, with gallery director Terras telling the Miami Herald: "He did not destroy the art work. The banana is the idea."
However, Galerie Perrotin removed the piece from the fair on Sunday morning following a number of "uncontrollable" incidents at the booth.
"Art Basel collaboratively worked with us to station guards and create uniform lines," the gallery said. "However, the installation caused several uncontrollable crowd movements and the placement of the work on our booth compromised the safety of the artwork around us, including that of our neighbours."
"Comedian, with its simple composition, ultimately offered a complex reflection of ourselves," it added. "We would like to warmly thank all those who participated in this memorable adventure, as well as to our colleagues."
On the Sunday afternoon, the white wall where the banana was previously duct-taped, was vandalised with the words "Epstien (sic) didn't kill himself" written in red lipstick.
The phrase refers to the ongoing case surrounding American businessman and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead 10 August in New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he was held in custody on a charge of sex trafficking underage girls.
Attendees first believed the graffiti formed part of an art performance, according to The Miami Herald, but its author, Roderick Webber, was arrested for criminal mischief.
Two editions of Comedian sell for $120,000
Cattelan's Comedian is available in three editions, two of which have already sold for $120,000. Each sale comes with a certificate of authenticity, which means that the owners can replace the banana if necessary.
The subsequent removal of Comedian followed international media attention and a frenzy surrounding the piece, which was widely shared on various social channels.
The turn of events led Cooper Hewitt's curator of contemporary design, Alexandra Cunningham Cameron, to query the impact of social media on the fair's popularity.
"Will fair design have to change for social media? This was the first year that I felt, overwhelmingly, the influence of digital sharing on the fairs," she said in an Instagram post, adding that the fair's attendance this year was higher and sales "were better than ever".
Incident follows social-media frenzy
"Art booths have become photo booths with people lined up waiting to pose. At times it was impossible to look at work or walk through," Cameron continued. "Even the banana had to come down. Boosted by the frenzy of engagement? How will fairs adapt to accommodate this new way of seeing and buying? Discuss."
Prior to the removal, a number had also queried Comedian's high price and low-cost materials. Designer Sebastian Errazuriz was among those joining in the debate, posting a picture to Instagram of a dildo duct-taped to a wall, with an asking price of $12,000 (£9,000).
"Not sure the art world will fully recover," says Sebastian Errazuriz
Errazuriz then posted another picture of a banana duct-taped to a car with the caption: "Not sure the art world will fully recover. This could be that little extra push that finally gets people to shout that the emperor had no clothes and start pushing back..."
New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz similarly posted a phallic parody of Comedian and echoed Errazuriz's comments in the caption.
"A violent disordering is in the offing – a sub-music of change. Art will be fine; so will we. But joke art, shock-your-Nana-art, art about art about art: That's all been DOA for a decade or more – of course idiot artists, collectors, dealers and critics don't see that to even take it seriously is to put the gun to your own head. Easy answers. Migrations are afoot – art is on the move."
Comedian is not the first art scandal that Maurizio Cattelan has been embroiled in this year. In September, his solid gold $5 million toilet artwork was stolen from an exhibition at Blenheim Palace.