The Duct-taped Banana Scam

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) left behind ample proof of his famous dictum that “art is what you can get away with.” Six years after his death, the British auction house Christie's assessed his estate at $220 million. Way to go, Andy!

If someone can get away with Brillo boxes as art, why not a banana duct-taped to a wall? Why not indeed. Meet “Comedian,” by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan (b. 1960), which sold for $120,000. Way to go, Maurizio!

As to when and where this happened, the international art fair Art Basel had “Comedian” on display last week at the Miami Beach Convention Center. It was the star of the show. I can attest to that because I was there and saw crowds elbowing to see it and take photos.

“Comedian” and an admirer (YouTube screen grab)

Nothing else got that attention. When I asked where it was, someone said “follow the smell.” Later in the day, a wag peeled (ahem) the banana off the wall and ate it. I did not see that (darn!), though I was in the building at the time. Here is the reporting.

What’s going on here? No, I’m not going to bore you with a disquisition on the vagaries of modern art. Worth noting, however, is that Cattelan was copycatting an idea exemplified 100+ years ago by Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), who in 1917 submitted a shiny new … urinal he titled “Fountain” to a New York exhibition. This launched an artform that critics and scholars later fawned over and termed “Readymades.” Maybe “Comedian” will launch a “Readygrowns” artform for critics and scholars to fawn over. A Bosc pear stuck to a gallery wall with a staple through its stem? Hey, Maurizio …

Something important follows from Warhol’s “anything goes” dictum far beyond its intended context. To get at it, let’s note first that nobody would put up with “a car is what you can get away with” except maybe in the old Soviet Union, where people pretended to work and the state pretended to pay them. Things made to work in a certain way better work that way or else. Yankee Doodle stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni in a nursery rhyme.

Next, what about “science is what you can get away with”? Again, the old Soviet Union supplies a model. A quack named Lysenko injected politics into science in the 1930s by persuading Stalin that Mendelian genetics was capitalist fiction and that Soviet crops should be raised according Soviet principles. The result was widespread famine and the defamation, firing, arrest and even death of scientists who opposed this lunacy. Dare I suggest that climate change fiction – Al Gore, chief fabulist – copycats Lysenko? To borrow a line from Mel Brooks’ hilarious Blazing Saddles, “Dare, dare!” The other day a professor in Denmark urged UN military action against climate change opponents, already pilloried in the Democrat press and on academic campuses. Lysenko was after power and so are his successors, as simple as that

Moving right along, what about “morality is what you can get away with”? Back in the day when I was teaching applied ethics in college, I had to address this one because students insisted. Movies have been made, they would say, about perfect robberies, perfect murders and so on. What can be wrong with that as long as you don’t get caught? Dare I suggest that a former first lady, secretary of state and failed presidential candidate got away with a long list of activities (ahem) that would have landed anyone else in jail? Dare, dare! I tried to persuade students that morality becomes an oxymoron if not getting caught is the criterion. They evidently ignored me, graduated and went on to vote Democrat along with their kids and grandkids.

Finally, consider “evidence is what you can get away with.” The precedent for this bit of nonsense was set by Al Sharpton’s Tawana Brawley hoax some 30 years ago, copycatted in 2012 by the Diamond Eugene hoax perpetrated by Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump and Al Sharpton (again), which led to the arrest and trial (but not conviction) of George Zimmerman. Dare I suggest that the Russia collusion hoax, the Ukraine quid-pro-quo hoax and Schiff-Nadler investigations that may lead to a House impeachment vote have the same credibility as Sharpton fiascos? Dare, dare! Emeritus Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz considers Democrat impeachment proceedings unconstitutional, though he is quick to add that he’s a Democrat, i.e., is on the side of infanticide, open borders, Sharia law, “Squad” anti-Semitism ... Shiffto-Nadlerian evidence is an oxymoron, just like Democrat morality, which Dershowitz wouldn’t dare admit in public.      

Back to Art Basel for a final comment. I spent several hours looking for a sculpture that was in some sense beautiful, which artists in the olden days used to think was the goal. I found one, maybe two and those were marginal. Everything else seemed deliberately designed not to look beautiful; many sculptures were downright ugly and some were even repulsive – and would probably scare small children. This raises the question why anyone would spend untold thousands to look at something every day that did not please the eye or gladden the heart.

A frequent contributor to American Thinker, Arnold Cusmariu holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and has been making stone sculptures for the past twenty years. He has published several articles explaining his working aesthetic, available at www.academia.edu. At the moment, he is working to complete #22 in his “Counterpoint” series, the fifth such sculpture done this year. Email  aclogic1@yahoo.com.

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) left behind ample proof of his famous dictum that “art is what you can get away with.” Six years after his death, the British auction house Christie's assessed his estate at $220 million. Way to go, Andy!

If someone can get away with Brillo boxes as art, why not a banana duct-taped to a wall? Why not indeed. Meet “Comedian,” by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan (b. 1960), which sold for $120,000. Way to go, Maurizio!

As to when and where this happened, the international art fair Art Basel had “Comedian” on display last week at the Miami Beach Convention Center. It was the star of the show. I can attest to that because I was there and saw crowds elbowing to see it and take photos.

“Comedian” and an admirer (YouTube screen grab)

Nothing else got that attention. When I asked where it was, someone said “follow the smell.” Later in the day, a wag peeled (ahem) the banana off the wall and ate it. I did not see that (darn!), though I was in the building at the time. Here is the reporting.

What’s going on here? No, I’m not going to bore you with a disquisition on the vagaries of modern art. Worth noting, however, is that Cattelan was copycatting an idea exemplified 100+ years ago by Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), who in 1917 submitted a shiny new … urinal he titled “Fountain” to a New York exhibition. This launched an artform that critics and scholars later fawned over and termed “Readymades.” Maybe “Comedian” will launch a “Readygrowns” artform for critics and scholars to fawn over. A Bosc pear stuck to a gallery wall with a staple through its stem? Hey, Maurizio …

Something important follows from Warhol’s “anything goes” dictum far beyond its intended context. To get at it, let’s note first that nobody would put up with “a car is what you can get away with” except maybe in the old Soviet Union, where people pretended to work and the state pretended to pay them. Things made to work in a certain way better work that way or else. Yankee Doodle stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni in a nursery rhyme.

Next, what about “science is what you can get away with”? Again, the old Soviet Union supplies a model. A quack named Lysenko injected politics into science in the 1930s by persuading Stalin that Mendelian genetics was capitalist fiction and that Soviet crops should be raised according Soviet principles. The result was widespread famine and the defamation, firing, arrest and even death of scientists who opposed this lunacy. Dare I suggest that climate change fiction – Al Gore, chief fabulist – copycats Lysenko? To borrow a line from Mel Brooks’ hilarious Blazing Saddles, “Dare, dare!” The other day a professor in Denmark urged UN military action against climate change opponents, already pilloried in the Democrat press and on academic campuses. Lysenko was after power and so are his successors, as simple as that

Moving right along, what about “morality is what you can get away with”? Back in the day when I was teaching applied ethics in college, I had to address this one because students insisted. Movies have been made, they would say, about perfect robberies, perfect murders and so on. What can be wrong with that as long as you don’t get caught? Dare I suggest that a former first lady, secretary of state and failed presidential candidate got away with a long list of activities (ahem) that would have landed anyone else in jail? Dare, dare! I tried to persuade students that morality becomes an oxymoron if not getting caught is the criterion. They evidently ignored me, graduated and went on to vote Democrat along with their kids and grandkids.

Finally, consider “evidence is what you can get away with.” The precedent for this bit of nonsense was set by Al Sharpton’s Tawana Brawley hoax some 30 years ago, copycatted in 2012 by the Diamond Eugene hoax perpetrated by Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump and Al Sharpton (again), which led to the arrest and trial (but not conviction) of George Zimmerman. Dare I suggest that the Russia collusion hoax, the Ukraine quid-pro-quo hoax and Schiff-Nadler investigations that may lead to a House impeachment vote have the same credibility as Sharpton fiascos? Dare, dare! Emeritus Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz considers Democrat impeachment proceedings unconstitutional, though he is quick to add that he’s a Democrat, i.e., is on the side of infanticide, open borders, Sharia law, “Squad” anti-Semitism ... Shiffto-Nadlerian evidence is an oxymoron, just like Democrat morality, which Dershowitz wouldn’t dare admit in public.      

Back to Art Basel for a final comment. I spent several hours looking for a sculpture that was in some sense beautiful, which artists in the olden days used to think was the goal. I found one, maybe two and those were marginal. Everything else seemed deliberately designed not to look beautiful; many sculptures were downright ugly and some were even repulsive – and would probably scare small children. This raises the question why anyone would spend untold thousands to look at something every day that did not please the eye or gladden the heart.

A frequent contributor to American Thinker, Arnold Cusmariu holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and has been making stone sculptures for the past twenty years. He has published several articles explaining his working aesthetic, available at www.academia.edu. At the moment, he is working to complete #22 in his “Counterpoint” series, the fifth such sculpture done this year. Email  aclogic1@yahoo.com.