MIAMI — The now-iconic white wall that once held a duct-taped banana at Art Basel Miami Beach was vandalized on Sunday afternoon, forcing exhibitors to cover up the writing in red lipstick with a white cardboard.
The banana, which has attracted hundreds after it sold to an art collector for $120,000, was replaced with the phrase “Epstien (sic) didn’t kill himself,” written with red lipstick.
The scene confused some who were in the gallery, most who assumed it was just another performance.
“This is the gallery where anyone can do art, right?” the man is heard saying in a video provided to the Miami Herald when a security guard confronted him.
Sacha Medici, 24, was strolling inside the Miami Beach Convention Center, hoping to spot Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s banana art piece, titled “Comedian,” which was eaten by a performance artist on Saturday afternoon.
“When we got to the wall, it was white and empty,” Medici said. “We saw this guy live-streaming … and he starts writing on the wall and I was like, ‘No way, there’s no way this guy is writing.”
“No pena, no nothing,” Medici said.
Miami Beach Police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez said the incident was reported at 4:50 p.m. and a man they identified as 46-year-old Roderick Webber of Massachusetts was arrested on charges of criminal mischief.
A spokesperson for Art Basel directed any questions to authorities. Katherine Wisniewski, spokesperson for the Emmanuel Perrotin art gallery, where the vandalized wall is located, said their gallery is not affiliated with Webber.
“If someone can eat the $120,000 banana and not get arrested, why can’t I write on the wall?” Webber shouted as he was escorted out of the convention center, according to a police report.
Medici said that as the man wrote on the wall, everyone around her stared and recorded videos on their phones. Some pointed out he had misspelled the last name of Jeffrey Epstein, the Palm Beach multimillionaire sex offender who prosecutors and police say sexually abused dozens of underage girls.
After being found dead in his jail cell, the New York City medical examiner ruled Epstein’s death a suicide. This finding was challenged by at least one notable pathologist, who was hired by his brother Mark Epstein and was present during his autopsy.