• gerard van weyenbergh

The banana quarrel.

By exhibiting a banana as an artwork, Maurizio Cattelan once again made the world of contemporary art tremble and revived the eternal quarrel between his supporters and his detractors. Why or why not find a $ 120,000 banana awesome?

The banana

Today, I'm talking about bananas, but not just any banana: a banana as an artwork, a banana sold for 120,000 dollars, taped roughly to a wall, then photographed, filmed, and finally, eaten during an unexpected performance. This banana, called “Comedian, " is the work of the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, already known for his works such as toilets in solid 18-carat gold or Pope John Paul II sculpture struck down by a meteorite.

His banana is now one more artwork to add to contemporary art affairs, which punctuate the news in the media about every six months. And as usual, such a reactive affair, without ever appeasing it, the famous philosophical "quarrel" of contemporary art.

Since long, we know the refrain attached to contemporary art: childish, indecent, absurd, snobbish, or without substance. Recalling contemporary art critics, even if it is a fascinating affair, has something, by force, boring.

Especially since we have the impression that, whatever happens, there will always be two camps: the supporters and the detractors, quite distinct, quite opposed, incapable, despite their debates or the works at stake, to change one's mind. The quarrel of contemporary art is a dialogue of the deaf.

An inner disagreement

I might as well say it right away, to avoid any ambiguity, I am among the supporters of contemporary art.

Every controversy surrounding a contemporary work delights me; I like looking at the work, seeing the reactions it arouses, and defending it ardently, whatever it is and without even understanding it. Yet I hear the arguments of the opposing camp, I even agree with them.

But now, contemporary art, it works on me. Why ? Why does it work on me, and not on others? Why do I find it great to display a banana, that it be bought at 120,000 dollars, and eaten, and all that, without being blind, to the absurdity of this gesture. Why am I at peace with contemporary art when it arouses such disagreement in me?

What interests me in this inner disagreement, in my love for the ugliness of Jeff Koons' tulips or the silly banana of Cattelan, is not the opposition between the universality of aesthetic judgment and the individuality of personal tastes, it is not either the technical debate on the qualities of the works, and even less the sociological thesis which consists in saying that it works on me because I would have an idea of ​​what is the world of art ( which is not the case).

Lack of logic

No, what interests me is that I intellectually agree to find it ridiculous, childish, or snobbish, and that, despite that, I find it brilliant.

What is happening ? Is there an essential dissociation between the head and the heart at play in me? By a twisted, perverse effect, do I like this, which is debated, which poses a problem? Or, finally, should we see nothing special in this, if not a personal inconsistency?

These are real questions that do not concern only me, because I believe that they concern all contemporary art lovers: these are not so naive that they do not see the absurdity of a hanging banana on the wall , they are not so cynical that they do not see the one to pay 120,000 dollars a fruit that only costs a few, or the one to denounce the art market while profiting from it, but yes, by was that what pleased me? The absurdity, the absence of morals, rules, link, logic, and even idea?

Destroy any idea of ​​Art

In an archive from 1977, in the middle of FIAC, artist ORLAN defends his kisses sold for 5 francs / piece in front of a critical visitor who acts as the spokesperson for people with “a certain idea of ​​art”. Contemporary art would not correspond to this idea, to what is expected of art. But does contemporary art really have an idea of ​​art?

Maybe he doesn't even have an idea, in the sense of logical, justified, argued thought. Perhaps it is even the reverse. And maybe that's what I like, this disapproval of the logical role of reason or morality.

This is, I believe, why we can love contemporary art with our heart and criticize it with our head, why we can be at peace with the quarrel of contemporary art: if I like this banana made an artwork, it is because it has no meaning and precisely destroys any idea of ​​an idea of ​​art ... which must be unbearable for all those quarrelsome of contemporary art, more in love with the idea of a non-existent Art only very real works. © France Culture