Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories
Though it may not have the symbolic weight of the pineapple or the pomegranate, the banana has long exerted a powerful hold on our cultural imagination. As Marina Warner identified in her book No Go the Bogeyman (1998), the slippery-skinned fruit has variously come to represent sex, exoticism and – during the Second World War – an antidote to the privations of rationing. Buster Keaton, Samuel Beckett, Andy Warhol and Sarah Lucas are just some of the creative types to have seen the banana’s funny side.
The National Museum in Warsaw, alas, doesn’t seem to have got the joke. The museum recently received a complaint about a work of art in its collection that depicts a naked woman eating a banana – ‘in a suggestive manner’, according to CNN. The work in question, a video from 1973 by artist Natalia Lach-Lachowicz (Natalia LL), had been on display at the institution for many years before it sparked the ire of Poland’s conservative authorities. After being summoned to the culture ministry last week, recently appointed museum director Jerzy Miziolek announced that the film would be removed from display, claiming that it might have ‘a distracting influence on young people’.
Following the announcement, Polish social media users went, well, bananas. In a show of support for Lach-Lachowicz – a key figure in Polish contemporary art – dozens of people posted pictures of themselves eating the fruit alongside the hashtag #bananaselfie. And then there was a ‘mass banana demonstration’, in the course of which hundreds of people gathered outside the museum and ostentatiously consumed the fruit. Miziolek has since performed a partial reverse ferret, announcing that the video will temporarily go back on display. Talk about a slip-up…