The Ginza Banana got peeled

It struck me as silly from the start. The tall, narrow façade of the Sony building, overlooking one of Ginza’s busiest intersections, had been adorned with a giant banana.

But as I walked past it almost daily for several weeks, I gradually grew fond of it. And I was disappointed to see recently that it is no longer there.

The Banana, which decorated the building from Oct. 28 to Nov. 26, was the work of 30-year-old artist Yumiko Kanda. She was chosen for the job through a building-decorating contest Sony held. You can read about Kanda in Japanese, and see what the other finalists came up with, by visiting Sony’s Artwall page.

A sign at the base of what Sony calls its building’s Artwall says that Kanda’s “artworks are based on the theme of rediscovering the beauty in ordinary ‘things’ from everyday life, mainly using acrylic gouache on canvas board.”

Kanda’s Banana fit that “everyday” description. Rather than being an artificially perfect yellow, it is speckled with the black spots that tell you it is ripe and ready to eat.

These spots appeared to remain static throughout the Banana’s run, but if it had been up to me I would have started out pure yellow and then added a bit of black every day, allowing the banana to ripen before the viewers’ eyes as the weeks went by. The spots could have been added discreetly at night, or perhaps Kanda (or a professional steeplejack) could have taken a bucket of black paint and used a rope to rappel onto various parts of the Banana in an ant costume in broad daylight.

I don’t mean this as a negative criticism of the painting at all. The fact that I am having such thoughts means the Banana was a success. After all, if a 10-story Banana didn’t put silly ideas into at least some of its viewers’ heads – and smiles onto their faces – what would be its point?

However, the smile was wiped from my face last week when I saw that my beloved Banana had been peeled off and replaced by another Yumiko Kanda work – a giant chicken leg.

Roasted Chicken went up on Nov. 27 and will remain in place until Christmas. The one thing I can say in its favor is that it is seasonally appropriate, as roasted or fried chicken is the centerpiece of a Japanese Christmas dinner. (Please, please, please let them replace this painting with one of a gnawed bone on Boxing Day.)

Perhaps Roasted Chicken will grow on me like Banana did. After all, they’re both pretty silly. But there’s cheerful silliness and there’s odd silliness, and Roasted Chicken falls into the latter category. It’s a well-known fact that bananas are more cheerful than chicken legs. Not even the coquettish addition of a red ribbon around the chicken’s ankle can change this reality.

However, to admit my biases, I must say that my first glimpse of Roasted Chicken took place under less than ideal circumstances. Not only did the loss of my cherished Banana have me in a state of shock, but the low winter sun was reflecting off the wavy glass front of the Fujiya building across the street from the Sony building in such a way that it splashed large, uneven patches of light across the Roasted Chicken. This gave the chicken’s skin an unhealthy mottled appearance, as if it had been unevenly cooked. It was a most unappetizing spectacle.

When viewed in a better light (literally), Roasted Chicken actually doesn’t look horrible, but it still doesn’t make me smile the way Banana did.

A third Yumiko Kanda painting will go up on the Artwall in summer 2011.

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