Two students jokingly placed a store-bought pineapple on an empty table at an art exhibition this month in Scotland, and it became art.

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LONDON — How did a pineapple become a postmodern masterpiece?

The aesthetic merits of tropical fruit inadvertently entered Britain’s national cultural conversation after two students jokingly placed a store-bought pineapple on an empty table at an art exhibition this month at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, a port city in northeastern Scotland.

When they returned a few days later to the exhibition — part of the Look Again festival, which aims to highlight Aberdeen’s cultural heritage — they were shocked to discover their pineapple protected by a glass display case, instantly and mysteriously transformed into a work of art.

After one of the students, Lloyd Jack, 22, who studies business, put a photograph of the pineapple on Twitter, along with the words, “I made art,” the image was shared widely on social media, turning the fruit, fairly or not, into a cultural sensation.

Jack’s post received nearly 5,000 likes on Twitter. Before long, the work, which the two students titled “Pineapple,” had been deconstructed on art blogs and social media worldwide; parsed in Paris, Texas and Tokyo; and was even featured on Canadian television. Some on Twitter lauded its “genius,” while others ridiculed it as the latest example of conceptual art’s plodding banality.

Jack said he and the other student, Ruairi Gray, also 22, had been stunned by the attention afforded the pineapple, which he said the two had put on the table in a moment of lighthearted whimsy, slanted slightly to the left to give it a bit more flair. It was displayed nearly a week before it was removed.

“We weren’t sure how the glass case got there, and initially assumed it was bungling curators,” he said. “We couldn’t believe our eyes, and didn’t expect our lowly little supermarket pineapple to become a global star.”

The fruit cost about $1.30.

Nevertheless, he said, the pineapple, alone in its display case and destined to rot, was a poignant symbol of Britain in the era of “Brexit,” the nation’s decision to leave the European Union. (Unlike England, Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain.)

“The pineapple symbolizes the U.K. leaving the EU, standing alone, attempting to survive, cut off from the outside world,” he said.

Others were not altogether amused, including the organizers of the Look Again festival, who found their exhibition suddenly hijacked by a fruit. After investigating they discovered the glass case had been placed at the exhibition by a janitor.

Peter York, an author and cultural commentator, noted the pineapple display, consciously or not, wittily reflected French artist Marcel Duchamp’s notion that if you declare something art, it becomes art.

“I rank pineapples quite highly as they are quite decorative objects, sort of colonial superfruits, with leaves that look like green fountains at the top,” he said. “But you wouldn’t really want a pineapple exhibited in your home.”