If you've got your finger on the pulse of the most bizarre corners of the art world, you'll remember that back in 2019 someone paid $120,000 for a banana duct taped to a wall. Yes really. Even weirder, that banana ended up in the Guggenheim museum when it reopened after the first lockdown of the pandemic in 2020.
We honestly never thought we'd mention it again but that banana is back in the news as another artist claims to have had the idea first – way back in the year 2000, in fact. Visual artist Joe Morford has now filed a lawsuit claiming ownership of the idea, a case that seems to have merit as a judge has just ruled it may progress to a court hearing. If you're looking to make something totally original, our art techniques guide is the place to be.
According to Morford (opens in new tab), the more recent work by Maurizio Cattelan (opens in new tab)(titled Comedian – catch up on the story here if you missed it), is a rip off of his original piece, titled Banana & Orange (registered with the U.S Copyright Office since 2000). There's one major difference though, and the clue is in the name. Yup, that piece also included an orange duct taped next to the banana. See it above.
Though the ruling agrees with Cattelan's lawyers that elements of the art cannot be covered under copyright (apparently you can do what you want with duct tape and a a banana), apparently the "selection, coordination, and arrangement" of the work could be worthy of protection. According to Bloomberg (opens in new tab), Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. also agreed that Cattelan had sufficient access to 'Banana & Orange' as it has been available on YouTube since 2008, on Facebook since 2008 and on Morford's website since 2016.
Judge Scola also agreed that Morford's work is creatively original enough to be subject to copyright due to its "absurd and farcical nature". Plus, the angle of the banana is the same, which could be bad news for Cattelan whose solo banana has netted him $390,000 altogether.
We look forward to seeing how this case unpeels (sorry). Perhaps the Cattelan should have taken originality notes from this artist who has started a lost cat poster campaign that's gone global. It does seem to be the season for bizarre copyright cases, as this joins last week's story in which Kanye West forced a small business to change its branding to something less Yeezy-inspired.