David Datuna, a Georgia-born American artist known for his political, optical, and performance art, died Tuesday at age 48 after a battle with lung cancer.
His death was confirmed by a tweet on David Zalkaliani’s account.
Saddened to hear about passing of David Datuna, extraordinary Georgian-born American artist. Embassy partnered with David Datuna as he honored Gilead with Life Award for the work to eliminate Hepatitis C in Georgia. My deepest condolences to the family & friends of David Datuna. pic.twitter.com/NBc8ZVm6Uh
— David Zalkaliani (@DZalkaliani) May 24, 2022
Much of Datuna’s art was created to be viewed through optical lenses and symbolized different points of view. Some of his pieces made political statements, such as a piece where he combined the political slogans of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016 in an attempt to bridge divisions in the country.
Making a statement
Datuna’s most well-known pieces were the Viewpoint of Millions collection and Hungry Artist, a piece of performance art where in 2019 he ate a banana that was part of another artist’s work and sold for $120,000.
He also created famous portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Steve Jobs, and Barack Obama that sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Datuna was born in Georgia under the USSR, and later immigrated to America and became a citizen. After eating the banana from Maurizio Cattelan’s work, Comedian, he said he did it because it showed so little common sense to sell a 20-cent banana for $120,000 when people were going hungry around the world.
He then partnered with Dole in a campaign to feed hungry kids through Boys and Girls clubs using the proceeds of art pieces he created for the campaign.
Datuna also donated other works to charity, most notably the Naked Heart Foundation. He also worked to end hepatitis C in Georgia.
A mobile phone app, Viewpoints, was made in 2012 to allow users to create artwork in Datuna’s signature style.
Datuna’s artworks often incorporated photographs, news clippings, magazine articles, and other media, meaningfully chosen to go with the piece.
His influence in the art world, charitable work, and political discourse will be missed.