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Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst offers to swap any work for viral duct-tape banana—but Maurizio Cattelan says no

Curator Francesco Bonami has created his own version for the British artist as a consolation prize

The British artist Damien Hirst has revealed how he was so hell-bent on acquiring an edition of Maurizio Cattelan’s banana duct-taped to a wall that he offered to swap any of his own works in exchange for an edition of the potassium-rich piece of art.

Hirst was so enamoured with Catellan’s work, which went viral after the Italian trickster stuck it to his gallery’s wall at Art Basel in Miami Beach in December with a $120,000 price tag, that the former YBA enrolled the help of the curator Francesco Bonami. “I was desperate to buy this artwork from Maurizio Cattelan, called Comedian, because I love it so much,” Hirst posted on Instagram. “I asked my friend and curator Francesco Bonami to ask Maurizio if he had an A.P. he could sell me or if he would make me a special one? I offered to swap it for anything of mine? But sadly he said no! Wahhhh!”

The sculpture, whose ontological status was fiercely debated (is it a banana, art, or symbol of the art market’s delusion?), was created in an edition of three with two artists’ proofs. Collectors Billy and Beatrice Cox and Sarah Andelman were among those to purchase editions. According to the Guardian, a second version of the piece was also created and sold.

Alas, no such treatment for Hirst. Apparently feeling sorry for the artist, Bonami created his own version and sent it to Hirst as a gift—with one condition: the art work be installed pointing the other way. “This is it now on my wall and I love it, he said the banana has to point the opposite way,” Hirst says. “Thanks Francesco and thanks for trying! Maybe I should call you Francesco Bananami from now on!?”

As per Catellan’s original instructions, Hirst says he now plans to replace the banana weekly. “I want it to look fresh,” he says, adding that he will eat the discarded produce. When asked why he loves Catellan’s innuendo-laden work so much, Hirst responds: “Because after everything we’ve seen in art it’s still shocking and upsetting and it makes me laugh.”

Of all the puns the work conjured, the most obvious still prevails: has the art world gone bananas? In Hirst’s opinion, not as much as the real world. “But maybe that’s what this artwork is saying?” he adds.