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Artist sued over taping banana to wall

Tom Wood

Published 
| Last updated 

Artist sued over taping banana to wall

Featured Image Credit: Court Documents

A judge has ruled that a lawsuit against an Italian artist who stuck a banana to a wall with tape and sold it can go ahead.

The slightly bizarre suit alleges that Maurizio Cattelan has copied the artwork of Joe Morford from 2000, when he also made a piece in which bananas and oranges were taped to a panel.

If that’s not strange enough, some people actually bought Cattelan’s creations for more than $100,000, which means there’s going to be some money riding on this case.

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It's not the first time this artwork has caused controversy – another artist staged his own performance piece by walking up and eating one version of it back in 2019.

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Basically, American artist Morford accuses Cattelan of infringing on his intellectual property after the Italian released his work ‘Comedian’.

‘Comedian’ – Morford claims – bears a striking similarity to ‘Banana & Orange’ that he created two decades ago.

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On his Facebook page, he wrote: “I did this in 2000. But some dude steals my junk and pimps it for 120K+ in 2019. Plagiarism…?”

Both bananas were taped to a panel, and both at a slight angle.

Cattelan claims that his buyers were actually buying instructions on how to install the artwork and display it, and that Morford’s fruit was synthetic, so he ‘cannot own the idea of a real banana duct-taped to a wall’.

However, a judge has now ruled that the case can go ahead.

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US district judge Robert N Scola Jr said that Morford can proceed because ‘the alleged infringement of Morford’s banana is sufficient, quantitatively and qualitatively, to state a claim'.

The offending banana. Credit: Court Documents
The offending banana. Credit: Court Documents

Morford further claims that Cattelan could have seen his work because it’s been on his website as well as Facebook and YouTube for years.

In his statement the judge mused on whether the work can be considered art at all given the nature of it.

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He wrote: “Can a banana taped to a wall be art? Must art be beautiful? Creative? Emotive? A banana taped to a wall may not embody human creativity, but it may evoke some feelings, good or bad.

“In any event, a banana taped to a wall recalls [philosopher] Marshall McLuhan’s definition of art: ‘anything you can get away with’.”

He continued: “No one can claim a copyright in ideas, so Morford cannot claim a copyright in the idea of affixing a banana to a vertical plane using duct tape.

“Nor can Morford claim a copyright in bananas or duct tape.”

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The work Morford claims was plagiarised. Credit: Joe Morford/Facebook
The work Morford claims was plagiarised. Credit: Joe Morford/Facebook

With regard to whether it can be considered intellectual property, he concluded: “While using silver duct tape to affix a banana to a wall may not espouse the highest degree of creativity, its absurd and farcical nature meets the ‘minimal degree of creativity’ needed to qualify as original.”

So, not a fan then?

Either way, we’ll eventually find out whether Morford’s case will be a fruitful one, or whether it is rotten to the core.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected] 

Topics: News, Art, Weird, World News

Tom Wood
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