Was Banksy Involved in a Banana Prank in Cincinnati?

Image of a painting allegedly made by Banksy and inserted in the exhibition Mamma Andersson: Memory Banks  at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center (all photos courtesy Frizk)

CINCINNATI — It seems that Banksy may have conspired with a local artist to perform yet another prank in the extended game of peekaboo he is playing with the mainstream art market. Hyperallergic was contacted by an artist using the alias “Frizk” for this project, who claims that Banksy reached out to him via Instagram for his assistance in pulling off his latest act of mischief in one of the galleries of the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center.

The plot consisted of inserting a Banksy painting of a plain, half-peeled banana which matches the style and palette of the adjacent paintings displayed in the Mamma Andersson: Memory Banks exhibition currently on view. According to Frizk, he successfully recruited two University of Cincinnati students to distract a security guard and snuck the painting in and hung it before others became aware. However, it didn’t take very long for other museum staff to notice that the painting was not Andersson’s work and promptly take it down. According to the center’s communications director, Joshua Mattie:

“The painting was in place for a matter of minutes before it was discovered. Visitors who claimed to be ‘vlogging’ about their visit to the museum asked the guard on duty for a tour of the exhibition and it was discovered as they returned to opposite end of the gallery.”

Mattie went on to say that staff then placed the errant painting in the lost & found area “where it can be claimed by its owner, as is our policy.” Frizk asserts that there are plans to get it back, but apparently the art piece has not yet been retrieved.

In explanation Frizk claims that this particular stunt (unlike the now infamous shredding caper) is essentially about “perspective.” In an email sent to Hyperallergic, Frizk says that Banksy:

“ … believes about how art should be appreciated by everyone and is angry at the fact that the only pieces that get recognized are seen by a select few of the rich. To him, modern art is a scam and decreases the value of all other art pieces that might be just as good.”

He goes on to say that this a painting of a banana which “had no meaning” is a useful foil to prod viewers to perceive the “corruption in the modern art world.”

Another view of the painting allegedly made by Banksy and hung in a guerrilla operation carried out at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center

It is unclear whether the museum visitors who happened to be present in the gallery during this intervention would have had the time to absorb such a profound and esoteric lesson, given that the average time viewers tend to look at visual art has been estimated to be 15 to 30 seconds. Still, the image of the tantalizing banana might appeal to Banksy fans simply as a sign of the provocative artist have been there.

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