As Art Basel week in Miami closed, the only thing on the tip of everyone’s tongue was a banana. Specifically, a $120,000 yellow banana duck-taped to a wall, as an art installation by Italian artist, Maurizio Cattelan. The buyers Billy and Beatrice Cox of Miami, Florida defended their purchase with a released statement to Page Six (New York Post) on their acquisition, calling the work “the unicorn of the art world,” and comparing it to Andy Warhol’s iconic 1962 Campbell’s Soup Cans. The couple also intend to loan and eventually donate the artwork to a museum. In an article for Art News the couple are quoted as saying “When we saw the public debate ‘Comedian’ sparked about art and our society, we decided to purchase it. We bought it to ensure that it would be accessible to the public forever, to fuel debate and provoke thoughts and emotion in a public space in perpetuity.” This art acquisition necessitates many fresh bananas and many rolls of tape. All this may seem rather “comical” considering the money and attention. Honestly, it can be something straight out of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the tale of a king wearing no clothes who is publicly praised for the grand clothes he’s wearing, until one person has the courage to say, “You are not wearing any clothes at all, you are naked.” Can you imagine if this same king had bananas and duct tape all over his imperial art gallery? Yet, the banana was taken to a totally new level as it was boldly eaten by famed artist David Datuna. David elevated Matbritzios, “Comedian” with his human performance of peeling, chewing and swallowing the art in its entirety. After all, isn’t a piece of G-d’s fruit for human consumption? I almost see it as a creative blessing (bracha) on G-d’s foods, given to humans to thrive.
I was first introduced to Datuna’s work by a mutual friend from Moscow, Moishe Soloway. I was drawn to his use of assorted pieces of eyeglasses that distort or clarify your vision in order to really see his main subjects of national flags and iconic figures. His accomplishments are serious and quite impressive. His works have been shown in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. For the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, he is planning the largest art installation, incorporating artificial intelligence. His gallery in Long Island City is home to all of his creative outlets, including broken sets of china, religious saints and now, perhaps a fresh produce section. (Only kidding!)
David, the banana eater, became just as popular as the Maurice, the banana duct tape guy. Is this just one big social media opportunity? Insta story, tweet, article or press conference frenzy? I don’t know, but it has a very deep meaning as to what is art, or what is art now? I contacted David with a heartfelt “mazal tov” on his grand slam public relations move, knowing full well that he had performed the best thing since the self-shredding $1.4 million Banksy! I asked him a few questions that I’m certain no one else had. His first response was “I really like your questions!”
Me: Do you believe that your artistic talent is a gift from G-d?
Me: How has faith contributed to your work?
David: In my opinion, the artist is a representative of G-d on the earth. Therefore, without faith, true artwork cannot be born.
Me: If your works could compose a prayer, what might that sound like?
He proudly sent me a photo of his Israeli flag paintings.
Me: Your answer is that you have a strong affiliation to the land of Israel? Does that mean your prayer is for peace in Israel, therefore peace in the world?
David: Absolutely YES.
Me: Has art become faithless?
David: Only in the search we could find something right. Especially in art. It’s always a search. Unfortunately, the search is not always true, but the main thing is that in the end we find the right way.
I believe that David Datuna found the truth in his hungry act of art. It’s true that art is in the eyes of the beholder. It’s true that art is a reflection of the times. It’s true that art speaks to the generation that pays top dollar. And it’s absolutely true that only G-d can make a banana a piece of art.
Tobi Rubinstein is a retired fashion and marketing executive of 35 years who currently produces runway and lifestyle events for NYFW, specializing in Israel’s leading artists and designers. She is the founder of The House of Faith N Fashion, fusing culture and Torah. Tobi was a fashion collaboration and guest expert for ABC, Geraldo Rivera, Huffington Post, Lifetime, NBC, Bravo, and Arise. She hosted her own radio and reality TV series. Tobi is a mother, wife, dog owner, and shoe lover.