The Meaning Behind the Banana: Why Abstract Art is Art


Maurizio Cattelan’s sculpture, ‘Comedian’

Audrey Dean, Reporter

As we advance technologically, politically, and socially, art also must advance with us. It is long past the days of Renaissance art, where perfect figures were lighted dramatically and set in the most realistic oil paints. Now, art has evolved to be less about what we see, but what it means.
In the modern art scene, abstract art is the most popular, with 31% of collectors citing it as their favorite (Preston). And, if you were to walk through a museum, you’ll see blobs of shapes and colors painted proudly on the wall – the meaning would elude you. Maybe it would anger you, fascinate you, or simply baffle you. Thus, abstract art is as contingent as it is popular.
Abstract art is a form of art that does not attempt to represent a visual reality. Instead, it uses shapes, colors, forms, and gestural marks to achieve its effect. This freedom from representation allows abstract art to explore emotions, ideas, and concepts in a way that other forms of art cannot. The abstract artist seeks to create something that transcends the physical world and connects with the viewer on a deeper level.
It dates back to the early 20th century, which saw artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, and Piet Mondrian pioneering this style. Yet, in recent years, it has only extremified.
The most staggering example: Comedian, a sculpture by Maurizio Cattelan. The sculpture consists, simply, of a banana taped to a wall. This piece sold for $120,000 at the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair in 2019 (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Pieces like Comedian are why many people argue that abstract art is nothing more than a scam.
The banana-taped-to-the-wall sculpture by Maurizio Cattelan, may seem like an absurd and meaningless piece of art to some. However, it is important to remember that art is not always meant to be taken literally. The piece challenges the traditional notions of what constitutes art and raises questions about the value of art in society. By eliciting strong reactions and sparking conversations, Comedian has achieved its purpose as a thought-provoking piece of art. Its high price tag and the controversy it generated only serve to highlight its impact and cultural significance. Ultimately, the value of Comedian lies in its ability to push boundaries and challenge preconceived notions of what art can and should be.
Abstract art, in particular, is a vital form of expression in today’s world. As society becomes more complex and diverse, so too must art evolve to reflect these changes. Abstract art provides a platform for artists to explore the complexities of the human experience in a way that traditional art forms cannot.
The value of abstract art lies not in its ability to replicate reality but in its ability to create new realities. It challenges viewers to see beyond the surface and to engage with their own thoughts and emotions. Each individual’s interpretation of an abstract work of art is unique, and this is what makes it so powerful.
Critics who dismiss abstract art as a scam fail to understand that art is not just about the object itself, but about the experience it creates. When we view a work of art, we are not just looking at paint on a canvas or a sculpture in a gallery; we are engaging with the artist’s vision and connecting with something deeper within ourselves.
However, there are lines to be drawn on the definition of art.
There is a school of thought that suggests that AI-generated art is the uprising of newart forms. However, unlike actual art, AI- has no intentions. Unlike abstract art, which is created by human artists who imbue their work with emotion, symbolism, and intention, AI art is created by algorithms that are devoid of emotions and intentions. While AI-generated art may be visually appealing, it is ultimately meaningless because it cannot represent anything. It lacks the intention to convey emotions or communicate ideas, which is what sets true art apart from mere visual aesthetics.
As society continues to evolve, so too must our art, and abstract art will undoubtedly continue to play a crucial role in shaping the cultural landscape for years to come. Abstract art is not just a trend or a passing fad; it is a fundamental part of the human experience and an enduring testament to the power and beauty of art.