South Korean Student Eats $120,000 Banana Artwork Because He Was ‘Hungry’

Published May 1, 2023

Noh Huyn-soo removed Maurizio Cattelan's piece from the wall at the Leeum Museum of Art in Seoul and then ate it, later saying he did so simply because he "skipped breakfast."

Maurizio Cattelan Banana

Kim Kyoungtae/Maurizio Cattelan/Leeum Museum of ArtMaurizio Cattelan’s banana art piece, titled “Comedian,” before the incident.

A hungry museum visitor in South Korea recently chowed down on Maurizio Cattelan’s banana art piece, titled “Comedian,” which has an estimated worth of $120,000.

Noh Huyn-soo, a South Korean art student, visited the Leeum Museum of Art in Seoul and reportedly ate the art piece simply because he skipped breakfast and was hungry. He then taped the banana peel back onto the museum wall.

A video of the event showing Noh eating the art piece quickly circulated on social media:

The museum did not take punitive measures against Noh but instead replaced the banana peel with a fresh banana. Typically, the museum replaces the banana every two to three days anyway.

The museum stated that it does not have plans to claim damages or press charges against the student.

“It happened suddenly, so no special action was taken. The artist was informed of the incident but he didn’t have any reaction to it,” a museum spokesperson told CNN.

This isn’t the first time a hungry onlooker has eaten “Comedian.” In 2019, performance artist David Datuna snatched the banana from the wall at the Perrotin Gallery at Art Basel in Miami and ate the fruit in front of shocked onlookers.

But for the artist, Maurizio Cattelan, the frequent consumption of his work is “no problem.”

Cattelan acknowledges that his work is largely satirical and pokes fun at the absurdities of popular culture. Even for those who have ingested his art, like David Datuna, Cattelan’s art is a product of “genius,” The Guardian reports.

Cattelan’s previous works include “America,” an 18-carat-gold toilet valued at more than $6 million, and “Il Dito,” a middle-finger sculpture that sat opposite Milan’s stock exchange.

In the case of “Comedian,” the Perrotin Gallery told CNN that the banana is “a symbol of global trade, a double entendre, as well as a classic device for humor.” Cattelan uses everyday objects in his art as “vehicles of both delight and critique.”

Noh seemed to find his own meaning in the art piece, telling the Korea Herald that “damaging a work of modern art could also be [interpreted as] artwork.”

“I thought it would be interesting…isn’t it taped there to be eaten?” Noh questioned the Korea Herald.

Korea Banana Art Aftermath

InstagramThe banana art piece following the incident with the hungry student.

Observers of the event note that Cattelan’s work, though comedic and often a critique of politics and society, still rakes in millions for the artist.

The first copy of “Comedian” at Miami Art Basel sold for $120,000, and the second sold at the same price. The museum put another copy up for sale at $150,000.

“I have traveled in 67 countries around the world in the last three years, and I see how people live,” David Datuna said to The Guardian. “Millions are dying without food. Then he puts three bananas on the wall for half a million dollars?”

Following “Comedian’s” debut at Miami Art Basel, many expressed disappointment that the piece was sold for thousands of dollars and was even considered art.

Several individuals, corporations, and organizations openly mocked the piece online:

With these critiques in mind, perhaps it makes sense why several people would want to take a bite out of the piece which Art Net says draws a “line between the art world and total anarchy.”

After reading about how an art student ate a banana installation right off a museum wall, read up on the Australian vandals who destroyed 30,000-year-old Indigenous cave art, the bloody history of the U.S. banana industry. Then, discover the story of a couple who mistook an abstract painting as an interactive exhibit.

Amber Breese
Amber Breese is an Editorial Fellow for All That's Interesting. She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in political science, history, and Russian. Previously, she worked as a content creator for America House Kyiv, a Ukrainian organization focused on inspiring and engaging youth through cultural exchanges.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
Cite This Article
Breese, Amber. "South Korean Student Eats $120,000 Banana Artwork Because He Was ‘Hungry’.", May 1, 2023, Accessed April 19, 2024.