By: Julia Zhu
Many have heard of the piece where a ripe banana was ducted taped to a wall in the name of art. What makes people shake their head even more is when this piece titled “Comedian” by Maurizio Cattelan had two editions that sold for $120,000 each, and another 3 editions that sold for $150,000. Two of the three that sold for $150,000 are considered artists’ proofs. They are editions that artists often keep for their own archives or to sell later on. Artist proofs can often sell for more than the original piece even though they are the exact same. Now you ask how are there more editions? And how can they be legitimate?
In the case of “Comedian”. It is a conceptual piece of artwork. Meaning what the buyers actually paid for wasn’t the duct tape or banana but rather a certificate of authenticity that makes them the rightful owners of “Comedian”. The people or museums that own it are the only ones that can display a banana taped to a wall in that fashion. Naturally, it comes with instructions on how to place the banana on the wall with the tape in a specific degree or direction. This may anger some as many don’t consider this art. And that’s a fine opinion to have, but hear me out.
What is art? I think many have predetermined ideas of what is art and that perception of art is often connected to skill or the beauty that it has. In my eyes, this idea stems from if it doesn’t require skill in the execution why is it worth a high price tag. This perception of art is deceiving. Skill or beauty are byproducts in the making of some artworks but not all. Art is fundamentally an idea made real that represents someone’s self-expression. Beauty might be part of that but sometimes people’s works reflect on scary or tragic events. People who are not involved in art think the more realistic the better and that might be the case, but if you are emulating reality to such a degree it is no longer your self-expression. It is no different than a photo or what a camera can do. It is especially obvious if you compare works before and after the camera was invented. Art before was more skillful in techniques lost to time and artists painted for a snapshot in time, but after the invention of the camera people started to explore expressing themselves as artists are artists not cameras. You can see the progression or artworks very clearly when visiting the Cleveland Museum of Art. Because of the fact that self-expression can be so abstract, people, not to generalize, but the general perception I have seen is that they view the art world to be very pretentious. I can’t blame them at all. As walking up to an abstract painting and then reading the plaque of that piece, stating that it means existentialism and represents human mortality, must be nothing short of pretentious and puzzling. However fundamentally, art is the creativity of a person that carries their experiences and emotions, and that in my opinion is as raw as it can get.
Do I think that this idea of art is outrageous? Yes, many times, but is it still art, yes.