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The Status of the Banana in Modern Art
Why art history goes bananas for this curvy yellow fruit.
News 09 Dec 2019

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Art Basel Miami just ended and it seems that all we can talk about is the wall-taped, now rotten, banana by Maurizio Cattelan, that was sold by Galerie Perrotin for a rocking 120K USD (it must have been a triple organic one).  Is the art world totally bananas? Yes, it seems like it and therefore we want to share a little cheat sheet on arty bananas with you:
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This April, a video of Polish artist Natalia LL eating a banana was removed from Warsaw’s National Museum. As a result, a mass banana-eating demonstration took place outside the museum, where 1,000 people simultaneously ate the fruit in an act of protest. Meanwhile, others joined in by posting selfies of themselves eating bananas on Instagram. This resulted in the work going back on display, but only for one week, since the galleries are due to be rehung.
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Natalia LL is not the first artist to use the “sexy” banana in her work. The fruit has been used by artists for centuries, most notably in still life paintings, by artists like Gauguin. Recently too, it has been a motif favoured by artists, with Andy Warhol famously putting it on the cover for the 1967 debut album of The Velvet Underground and Nico.
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Like Natalia LL, and the subsequent protests in Poland, The Guerrilla Girls often use the banana in a critical response towards a male dominated art world.
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In 1990, Sarah Lucas released a self-portrait called Eating a Banana. Within the image she plays with the line between masculinity and femininity around gender roles.
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Angus Fairhurst too, who often incorporated gorillas into his wok, also played with the banana. Sometimes her didn’t use the fruit at all, presenting just their skins instead. And, in 2004, he turned the fruit from yellow to black, installing a nine-foot long bronze peeled banana inside the Tate Britain.
 
Text by Lizzy Vartanian
Images via @nationalmuseumwarsaw, @simonebaksheef, @artrat7, @trojan69e, @stephen_hartyandharty

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