"When I started to eat it, people around me were like, 'Please don't do it,'" Datuna tells PEOPLE

By Robyn Merrett
December 09, 2019 07:33 PM
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David Datuna/Instagram

Georgian performance artist David Datuna isn’t sorry he ate the infamous banana that was fastened to a wall with duct tape and sold to a private collector for $120,000 at Art Basel Miami Beach.

“It was delicious,” Datuna tells PEOPLE. “I asked the gallery for another, and they said no. I’m not sorry with what I did. I’m happy.”

Although the fruit served as a tasty snack for Datuna, he reveals it wasn’t actually about the banana, but instead about the art the banana represented and his own interpretation of the piece.

“It was my performance,” Datuna shares. “It was about concept. It’s a concept. Why can’t I eat it? It was a performance. The banana was just a tool. It can be replaced.”

While art affects everyone differently, Datuna’s now-viral moment was certainly shocking for guests of Galerie Perrotin.

“When I started to eat it, the people around me were like, ‘Please don’t do it. This is crazy.’ But everyone else was like, ‘Do it.’ The reaction was shock. ‘Did he really do this?'” Datuna says.

“I have thousands of thousands of messages on Instagram and Facebook and 90 percent of people have reacted great.”

Datuna says he also decided to eat the banana in hopes of encouraging the idea that everyone has a different emotion when thinking and reacting to art.

As for how he thinks Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan — the brain behind the installation — responded, Datuna isn’t sure.

“I don’t know. I hope he had a good reaction. It’s funny. He must appreciate it,” Datuna.

Datuna’s moment has certainly gained him a lot of attention, but he doesn’t want to be known as the “guy who ate the banana” as he’s an artist too.

His work, including pieces titled “Scull,” “White Flag” and “Rainbow Flag,” was exhibited at Galleria Ca’ d’Oro during Art Basel. Both “White Flag” and “Scull” were sold, his rep tells PEOPLE.

At around 1:45 p.m. local time on Saturday, Datuna, who shared a video of the incident that he titled “Hungry Artist,” was seen walking up to the work named “Comedian,” removing the duct tape and proceeding to eat the fruit.

“I love Maurizio Cattelan artwork and I really love this installation. It’s very delicious,” Datuna captioned a series of posts documenting the incident.

However, it turns out that even by literally eating the artwork, Datuna’s actions did nothing to change its value.

“He did not destroy the artwork,” gallery spokesman Lucien Terras told The Miami Herald, noting that the banana was always meant to be replaced when necessary. The outlet also noted that the work came with a certificate of authenticity, which was what collectors were really purchasing.

“Certificates of authenticity are crucial in the buying and selling of conceptual art,” gallery spokeswoman Katherine Wisniewski told PEOPLE. “‘Comedian’ has a COA that contains exact instructions for installation and authenticates that the work is by Maurizio Cattelan. Without a COA, a piece of conceptual artwork is nothing more than its material representation.”

Cattelan made “Comedian” in three editions, the spokesperson added, noting that the editions sold for between $120,000-$150,000.

Around 2:00 p.m. local time on Saturday, gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin and an assistant re-adhered another banana to the wall, according to the Miami Herald.

David Datuna
EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/getty Images

Let’s find another banana,” Perrotin can be heard saying in a video shared on Datuna’s account. “He did not eat the banana, it’s a banana.”

Miami Beach police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez confirmed to PEOPLE that no arrests were made, nor did they have any interactions with Datuna.

A spokesperson for the gallery also confirmed to The New York Times that no legal action was being taken against Datuna. “It’s all in good spirits,” the spokesperson said. “Perrotin is not pressing any legal charges.”

Poking fun at the situation, on Saturday, Perrotin posted a photo of himself standing beside a banana taped to the wall on an airplane.

“On the way to Berlin… obviously with a banana. Thanks to @artbasel for your understanding. Sorry for the mess. But please let’s keep the Banana until the end of the show on my booth,” he wrote.

However, on Sunday it was announced that “Comedian” was being removed from the art show.

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“This morning at 9am, following recommendations, we removed the installation,” he wrote on Instagram. “The installation caused several uncontrollable crowd movements and the placement of the work on our booth compromised the safety of the artwork around us, including that of our neighbors.”

“When Maurizio first told me about his idea, I never once anticipated that it could become what it is today. ‘Comedian,’ with its simple composition, ultimately offered a complex reflection of ourselves,” he added. “I am eternally grateful to Maurizio for entrusting me with the display of this watershed conceptual work.”

The idea behind the banana is to represent how bananas are “a symbol of global trade, a double entendre, as well as a classic device for humor,” hence Cattelan’s name for the piece, Perrotin previously told CNN.