Yes, we have bananas - 30,000 of them. Nelson surveys square's latest installation

Well before dawn, the early birds around Trafalgar Square realised something was amiss. Bananas, hundreds of them, were being piled in a huge heap. That they were positioned next to the National Gallery offered a clue. The hundreds became 30,000 by 5am and London's most famous square had its latest art installation.

Well before dawn, the early birds around Trafalgar Square realised something was amiss. Bananas, hundreds of them, were being piled in a huge heap. That they were positioned next to the National Gallery offered a clue. The hundreds became 30,000 by 5am and London's most famous square had its latest art installation.

The bananas provoked much scratching of heads as the crowds of tourists and passers-by pondered what the latest statement on the North Terrace could possibly mean.

Its creator, Doug Fishbone, was giving away few clues. He and 20 dedicated friends had arrived in a truck at 1.30am yesterday with six tons of Cavendish bananas to create the two-foot high mound. This, though, was a temporary installation and by 3pm, Mr Fishbone 35, a New Yorker who won the student category in the Becks Future awards this year, had begun to dismantle his creation and distributed all the bananas to passers-by.

During the day, the artwork was described in a variety of ways: a post-modern work of staggering genius; a cunning marketing ploy; a chimpanzee's dream. But by the time the bananas were given away, no one seemed to care. A scrum of tourists, office workers and students battled to bag themselves a bunch. "I'm going to sell these at the Tube station. If he can call a bunch of bananas art, then I think I can too - and make a profit," said Aidan Ashton Griffiths, 16, from north London

Two Russian women, who reckoned the artist's message was one of communist abundance ("to each according to his needs"), had arrived early with carrier bags to fill with free fruit. "We were told about this by the guide in our hotel. These will be our souvenirs," said Emilia Finkel, 70, from St Petersburg.

Art students guarded the work to ensure it was not dismantled prematurely by bystanders and many were admonished for attempting to eat the artwork.

Despite being pressured by the public for an explanation, Fishbone remained silent. So the crowd resorted to their own theories. Some thought it was a war memorial while a man in a monkey suit brandished a board which called it "arto-political humorism". An Australian couple thought it might be the work of activists protesting against banana importation and Marxists felt it was a comment on capitalist greed. Art students admired its vivid colour and composition.

Fishbone said the discussion was exactly what he had set out to achieve. "A lot of people have asked me what it means but I'm stepping back. I want this to involve the audience. It's such a big physical presence and changes so much in different contexts that I cannot honestly say any more whether it still has its original meaning," he said.

He said he was inspired to build the sculpture while living in South America and had created five similar installations in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Poland and New York. He explained: "I was living in Ecuador and I came across a heap of plantains dumped on the road to sell. I stopped in my tracks and thought that it looked magnificent and wanted to see it in an artistic context."

Critics were reluctant to accept the sculpture as anything other than a prosaic heap of bananas.

Anna Somers Cocks, founding editor of The Art Newspaper, said the "wow factor" had to be distinguished from its actual meaning, if any, while Brian Sewell condemned it as a hollow "attention-grabbing" exercise."It is merely the Elephant Man syndrome when people congregate to see something freakish," he said. "I could grab the same kind of public attention by standing on my head. What is not art ... is a heap of bananas in Trafalgar Square."

And what about dissent within the crowd of passers-by? John and Sonia Kemp, both 70, from Walton Creek, near San Francisco, were mystified: "When the folks back home see these pictures, they are going to think the Brits are a bunch of loonies," said Mr Kemp.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions