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Maurizio Cattelan's Comedian.
Maurizio Cattelan's Comedian.
Photo by Cindy Ord / Getty Images

Vandal Who Wrote Epstein Message on Art Basel Banana Wall Back in Miami Court

Sick of hearing about the Art Basel banana? Thought you'd left that behind in 2019? Well, too bad, because the saga continues into the new year!

As you might recall, after a performance artist yanked the banana from the wall and took a bite, another man used red lipstick to write "EPSTIEN [sic] DIDNT KILL HIMSELF" on the now-blank exhibit wall. Rod Webber, a 46-year-old artist and activist from Massachusetts, called his work The Lipstick. In a matter of moments, he was arrested and charged with one misdemeanor count of criminal mischief.

Today Webber will appear in Miami-Dade criminal court to fight the charge.

"I expect to rack up substantial expenses traveling back and forth to court, and fighting this legal battle will be a Sisyphusian [sic] task," Webber wrote in a blog post yesterday. "Of course, I have known from the moment I was put in handcuffs that this was also a part of the performance."

Webber is now calling on help from David Datuna, the performance artist who ate the banana. Unlike Webber, Datuna wasn't arrested for disturbing the Art Basel exhibit. The gallery that displayed the banana, Galerie Perrotin, seemed unruffled by Datuna's performance.

"He did not destroy the art work. The banana is the idea," gallery spokesperson Lucien Terras told the Miami Herald at the time.

In his blog post, Webber wrote he has not received equal treatment.

"Without the gallery, or someone like yourself speaking out on my behalf, I will be put on trial," Webber wrote, addressing Datuna. "As a result, a judge or a jury may be put in a position to legally decide what is and what isn't art. Not only would this establish precedent for artists like ourselves in the future, it might put the Miami Beach Police in a position where they would have to open an investigation into you and the Perrotin Gallery."

Katherine Wisniewski, a spokesperson for Galerie Perrotin, says the gallery did not press charges against Webber.

In an email to the media early this morning, Vermin Supreme — a Massachusetts performance artist running for president as a Libertarian — expressed his support for Webber.

"Any time Rod Webber gets arrested is an outrage. This time is no exception," Supreme wrote. "I hope he gets a hung jury — unlike Epstein, who didn't kill himself."

If convicted of the misdemeanor charge, Webber would face up to one year in county jail.

Webber is also being investigated for spray-painting "EPSTAIN [sic] DIDNT KILL HIMSELF" on a gate at Jeffrey Epstein's estate in Palm Beach. Webber posted a video of himself driving to the estate after he bonded out of jail for the Art Basel incident.

Webber says he is simply asking questions and trying to keep the media interested in investigating the death of Epstein, the billionaire sex offender accused of assaulting multiple women and girls. Epstein was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell August 10, 2019; the death was officially ruled a suicide but remains a matter of intense speculation. 

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