Maurizio Cattelan’s Banana Eaten Art Student in Seoul

SEOUL — Art lovers and curious onlookers alike have been down for an exhibition here by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, snapping up tickets as soon as they become available.

Since “WE” opened in January, visitors have gathered at Museum Yum in the posh Hanam district to contemplate — and take selfies with — stuffed horses, eerily realistic mannequins and wall-mounted bananas.

But an art student at one of South Korea’s top universities drew more attention to the exhibition by eating bananas – or artwork if you prefer to call it that – copies of which sold for $120,000.

In a video posted Last week by Korean broadcaster KBS, Seoul National University art student Noh Hyun-soo was seen pulling bananas from a wall while a voice was heard calling out, “Hey, there you are!” Regardless of the petition, Noah peels the banana and then calmly devours it within seconds before gluing the peel back to the wall and posing for the camera; His friend was recording the stunt, according to KBS.

“I found it amusing that a defacement of a work of art can be considered a work of art itself,” Noh told KBS, adding that he told the museum he ate the bananas — which are replaced every few days, since they are a real, ripe banana — because he was hungry. “And I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else do something like that, so I went ahead and did it for fun. Don’t they put (bananas) on the wall to eat, anyway?”

But Noah wasn’t the first to make a “comedian” snack. Theater artist David Datuna ate a banana at Art Basel Miami in 2019.

A rogue artist ate a banana worth $120,000 at Art Basel. “It’s a performance,” he said.

When “The Comedian” sold for $120,000 at Art Basel, it renewed the debate in the art world and beyond about what exactly constitutes art.

For some critics, Cattelan’s work is too simple; For others, he is willfully Spartan, or tongue-in-cheek. The Guggenheim offered to loan one of his pieces, a gold toilet titled “America,” to the White House after the Trump administration requested that Van Gogh be borrowed to furnish the president’s living quarters. When asked about the toilet at the time by The Washington Post, Cattelan said in a rare phone interview, “What’s the point of our lives? It all seems ridiculous until we die and then it makes sense.” A working toilet was stolen while on display in Britain in 2019.

At a restaurant for a Tuesday, a banana substitute was intact as one of the hosts watched on. I scolded a woman who approached the fruit from within inches, apparently trying to get a closer look, and another who stood close enough to take a picture. One of the women observing a banana eats her group about eating it before jokingly mouthing it. The attendant didn’t budge but said if this reporter was going to try to eat a banana, she’d have to step in.

Jo Ha-yeon, a student on a field trip at a high school for the arts (scheduled before growing up), stood next to her classmate as she watched bananas. She is not impressed by Noah’s trick.

“It was kind of obvious because the first person actually did it,” she said, referring to the 2019 holiday. “So I thought he wanted the attention of the Koreans.” But Jo and her colleague agreed that because of the media attention, the feat was, in fact, an art.

Don’t ask if banana duct tape is art. Ask if anything is good.

Cattelan could not be immediately reached for his thoughts on the matter, and Perrotin, a gallery he represents, did not respond to a request for comment. The museum informed Cattelan about the stunt but he “had no reaction to it,” CNN reported.

As for Noh, Leum is not taking “any special actions” against him, museum spokesperson Miso Han said in an email. The artwork was replaced immediately after the accident, which Hahn said “happened unexpectedly”.

Gentec Han contributed to this report.

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