Having recently avoided legal drama in France, artist Maurizio Cattelan is facing a separate lawsuit in the U.S. over his famed banana sculpture Comedian, which caused a stir at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2019.
Artist Joe Morford has alleged that Cattelan plagiarized his work Banana & Orange (2000), which similarly features pieces of fruit that are duct-taped to a wall. Cattelan’s legal team had attempted to have the lawsuit tossed out but, last week, a judge for the Southern District of Florida ruled that there was enough of a resemblance between Comedian and Banana & Orange for the suit to move forward.
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“Morford must plausibly allege that Cattelan had access to Banana & Orange and that—after dissecting Banana & Orange and stripping (or filtering) away the non-protected elements of it—there is a substantial similarity between the two works,” Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. wrote in a ruling filed on Wednesday.
Morford claims the work was available on Facebook and YouTube, although it remains unclear whether Cattelan actually saw the piece on either of those social media platforms.
A representative for Cattelan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When it was shown at Art Basel Miami Beach, Comedian generated a mix out of outrage and fascination, and was at one point even eaten by a local performance artist. Ultimately, the work got so much attention that it had to be removed altogether by Perrotin, the gallery that had brought it to the fair and sold three copies of it for a total of $390,000.
A version of Comedian is currently on view at a Cattelan survey at the Sea World Culture and Arts Center in Shenzhen.
The lawsuit is the second one this year involving Cattelan’s work. The first took place in Paris and involved questions about whether Cattelan could be considered the author of some of his most famous works, given that he had commissioned a wax sculptor to produce them. That suit was dismissed last week. Cattelan was not a defendant in that suit, although Perrotin, his gallery, and the Monnaie de Paris, an art space that staged a survey of his art, were.