Is a Banana Art?

So last week during class the prof briefly mentioned avant-garde art.

Here is an interesting experiement by Michael Fernandes.


From Globe and Mail

HALIFAX — Is a banana art?

A passerby walking along Granville Street in Halifax might now have reason to think so. Because in the window at Gallery Page and Strange sits a humble banana.

At first glance, it appears to be a forgotten part of someone’s lunch. Perhaps set aside because it’s still a bit green and not really ready to eat. But on closer look the passerby will notice a tag alongside the piece of fruit. The artist is identified as Michael Fernandes. The work is called Banana. The price is $2,500.

And there’s a blue sticker, indicating that a buyer has put a hold on this work.

It’s a gutsy move, even for a recognized experimental artist, one that has sparked public bemusement, a guerrilla raid by the so-called Patrick Swayze Collective and the anger of some local students who claim the project has trivialized art.

“Collectors are contacting us, they’ve seen the picture on our website and they’re asking us what medium he’s using,” gallery co-owner Victoria Page said. “And I say, ‘It’s a banana, you understand that it’s a banana.’ ” The window sill was chosen as a place where the public and private spheres meet and, since the middle of June, Fernandes has been exchanging the banana almost daily. Each time he uses a slightly greener banana to gradually reverse the ripening process.

“I’m taking it back to green, before green it doesn’t exist,” said the 64-year-old native of Trinidad, who lived near banana trees before immigrating to Canada in his teens. “The banana is temporal. We are also temporal, but we live as if we are not.”

But the work is not actually the banana, Fernandes explained in an interview. The process is what’s important. He’s hoping to mount a similar project for the Beijing Olympics, using a blood orange.

The buyer should not be expecting a superlative piece of fruit in return for $2,500. The bananas Fernandes is using for the display are ordinary, purchased from local supermarkets. Indeed, most days the artist eats the banana he has replaced. Instead, the buyer will be paying for the concept and will receive photos documenting the project. The buyer may also get press clippings or credit as patron if the project is staged again.

No tangible piece of art will trade hands.

“It’s not the banana. Yes, anybody could give you a banana,” said Fernandes, who is staging the exhibition without public funding.

“One of the [potential] clients wanted to know if I could come to her condominium and install the 21 days of bananas. I said ‘No, no, there is not a banana for sale,’ ” he added, acknowledging: “Her friends think she’s crazy.”

The most he can offer a buyer is the final banana, which will be installed at the gallery Friday and will be put on display in the completely unripe state the industry describes as “uniform green.”

“Maybe you could shellac it,” ventured Page, who said that the artist initially wanted to make a statement by offering the piece at $15,000. Gallery staff believed it would actually sell if priced more reasonably, though, so they settled on $2,500 to keep it in line with other work for sale at the gallery.

Two people have put a hold on the piece, Page said. There has also been a surge of public attention, she added, not all of it positive.

“Some people are really angry about the banana. Especially some [art] students who feel it’s poking fun at art, [and say] ‘How can anyone take this seriously?’ ” They’re not the only ones uncertain how to react. The gallery’s insurer refused to cover the piece, Fernandes and Page said, and one of the bananas was stolen not long after the exhibition started.

Last month, shortly before closing time, Page’s business partner Victoria Strange was distracted while a mysterious group swapped the banana for an apple. The thieves left a note scrawled on a napkin, calling bananas “the most radioactive fruit on earth.”

The thieves identified themselves as “The Patrick Swayze Collective” and claimed, “We exist. We definitely exist.”


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