A Miami art fair wall once home to a trio of high-priced bananas (and a performance in which one was eaten) was co-opted by a rogue artist who used lipstick to question notorious pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s purported suicide.
The blank space left after a hungry performance artist devoured Maurizio Cattelan’s sculpture “Comedian” – a banana affixed to the wall of an Art Basel Miami Beach art fair booth with duct tape – sprouted a lipsticked message on Sunday afternoon, questioning the official narrative surrounding the mysterious death of the jet-setting sex offender.
“EPSTIEN DIDN’T KILL HIMSELF,” 46-year-old Massachusetts native Roderick Webber scrawled with red lipstick on the empty wall, misspelling the name of the deceased financier. Webber was subsequently arrested by Miami Beach police for “criminal mischief,” according to local media, and reportedly complained of his punishment as he was being hauled away. Why, he demanded to know, had performance artist David Datuna been permitted to wolf down one of the pricey banana sculptures on Saturday without arrest, yet he, Webber, was barred from merely writing on the wall?
While some spectators mistook the “EPSTIEN” message for another work of performance art riffing on Cattelan, the writing scandalized the gallery enough to cover up the lipsticked words with white cardboard. Epstein owned a palatial home in Palm Beach, about 70 miles north of Miami, at the time of his death; he was convicted of soliciting underage girls for sex in 2008, with a victim count rumored to be in the hundreds, though he only served 13 months on work release in jail.
Two editions of “Comedian” sold for $120,000 to two French collectors before Datuna and Webber made the work their own. The sculptures’ value was not diminished at all by the small fact of one having been eaten, according to the gallery, which raised the price of the third edition to $150,000. The pieces were accompanied by certificates of authenticity advising the works’ owners that the fruit can be replaced as needed.
Before it was eaten, the sculpture proved one of the most popular pieces at the fair, forcing the gallery to deploy rope barriers to keep selfie-takers waiting patiently in line.
Epstein allegedly killed himself on August 10 while in the care of New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center. However, the circumstances surrounding his death, along with his alleged intelligence agency connections and the reported existence of reams of blackmail material on his many powerful friends, have fed speculation that the convicted sex offender was murdered.
Two corrections officers were arrested last month for allegedly falsifying records to show that they repeatedly checked up on their high-profile prisoner. Meanwhile, “Epstein didn’t kill himself” has become a popular meme – from the bowels of 4chan to the glitziest art fairs in the nation.
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