‘Dramatically vandalised’: publicly funded $22,000 banana splits opinion in Melbourne

By Michael Sun
Fallen Fruit: the sculpture by Adam Stone
Fallen Fruit: the sculpture by Adam Stone is about ‘our obsession with unsustainable excess’. Photograph: Sam Strutt/The Guardian

A 1.8-metre public sculpture of an anthropomorphic banana has caused a rumble among residents in Melbourne – and has already been victim to vandalism.

The artwork, which features a menacing skull facing out onto Rose Street in Fitzroy, is titled Fallen Fruit. Erected on 8 November, it was purchased by the City of Yarra for $22,000 out of a $100,000 grant bestowed by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC).

On Thursday night, the banana was vandalised with a saw, in an apparent decapitation attempt.

“It was pretty surprising and upsetting to see the work so dramatically vandalised, but also there’s not much that can be done when the work is in the public arena,” the artist Adam Stone told Guardian Australia, before patching up the scars on Friday afternoon. “You have to just let go and put it out there.”

Stone is a Victorian College of the Arts graduate, and a past winner of the Montalto Sculpture prize and Fiona Myer award. His banana themed pieces are part of a broader output that has been shown in galleries around Australia and Asia. For Fallen Fruit, he said, “my ambition was that people from a variety of backgrounds could find the work fun and engaging, and … perhaps consider the conceptual meaning of the work.

“I was thinking about hubris in western society and our obsession with unsustainable excess and how this affects the environment.”

While it is unclear what motivated the vandalism attack, public opinion around the banana’s appeal has been divided. Some quickly took to social media to defend the sculpture, and many referenced the sitcom Arrested Development, whose central family of characters operate a frozen banana stand.

Others, however, found the large fruit ripe for criticism – particularly its hefty taxpayer-funded fee, which some argued could have been redirected towards other community services and businesses.

The Transport Accident Commission, who bestowed the $100,000 grant for a Yarra Council project to look after pedestrians, said they would make their spending requirements more specific in the future.

“Were we aware there was going to be a piece of banana art as part of the project? We weren’t,” the TAC’s head of road safety, Samantha Cockfield, told 3AW on Friday.

“We’ll make it fairly clear … that large pieces of public art aren’t really what we’re in there for.”

Adam Stone's Fallen Fruit sculpture
‘It was pretty surprising and upsetting to see the work so dramatically vandalised,’ says artist Adam Stone. Photograph: Sam Strutt/The Guardian

Stone’s work joins a lineage of controversial yellow pieces.

In 1980, Ron Robertson-Swann’s highlighter hued structure Vault was widely criticised for its imposing size and shade. Dubbed the “yellow peril”, it was removed from its original City Square location less than eight months after opening.

Fallen Fruit’s price tag also pales in comparison to its predecessors, including Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s $120,000 work Comedian – a banana duct taped to a wall which caused a stir at its Art Basel showcase in 2019.

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