Should A Blank Canvas Be Considered Art? One Dutch Artist Certainly Thinks So!

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Jens Haaning's "TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN" artwork features two empty canvases (Credit: Kunsten Museum of Modern Art)

A mirror coated in red paint, a banana stuck to the wall with duct tape, and an invisible sculpture — these are just a few of the abstract artworks that have recently sold for astounding amounts. Now, Dutch artist Jens Haaning has taken the genre to a whole new level. His aptly named "TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN" masterpiece, comprising two empty frames, have set a local museum back 534,000 Danish krone ($84,000)!

Earlier this year, the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in ​​Aalborg, Denmark, commissioned Haaning to create two pieces for their upcoming "Work It Out" exhibit. Per their written agreement, the artist would use the 534,000 Danish krone lent to him by the museum to reproduce two of his previous artworks about labor. The first, An Average Austrian Year Income, displayed euro bills on a canvas in a frame, while the second, focusing on Danish incomes, did the same using krone notes. But when the museum opened the boxes the artist sent prior to the exhibit's opening on September 24, 2021, they found two blank frames titled "TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN."

Jen Haanings was asked to create updated versions of artworks from 2007 and 2010. Pictured: "An Average Austrian Year Income, 2007 (Credit: Jens Ziehe/Sabsay Gallery)

The museum officials admit that Haaning's artwork is thought-provoking and unique and have even included the pieces in the exhibit. But museum director Lasse Andersson expects the artist to fulfill his contractual obligation and return the money when the exhibition ends in January 2022. "I absolutely want to give Jens the right [to say] that a new work has been created in its own right, which actually comments on the exhibition we have," Andersson told Danish radio. "But that is not the agreement we had."

However, Haaning thinks his artwork is perfect for the exhibit, which examines the relationship between art and labor. He argues that the empty canvases highlight the unfair working conditions of many artists, including himself. The 56-year-old says the museum's 15,000 krone ($2,300) stipend for the artworks was not even enough to cover his costs. "The work is that I have taken their money," he told Danish radio. "It's not theft. It is breach of contract, and breach of contract is part of the work."

Resources: the Guardian.com, CNN.com, Artnet.com

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124 Comments
  • gwen1s2345789
    Yeah!
    • adahmi
      adahmi4 days
      All I see is a blank canvass.
      • donodan09
        donodan096 days
        TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN!!!!!
        • tavav
          tavav6 days
          Better take that money and run for your life, cuz there ain't no way you can pay back that 84,000.
          • tavav
            tavav6 days
            It's a piece of art because of the amount of time it took to make it. Also because there are special patterns if you look closely, and in my opinion it truly is a piece of art.
            • dragee890
              dragee8907 days
              voila! :)
              • new-york-ghoul
                is there some sort of magic for me to see it???
                • kirakoala
                  kirakoala8 days
                  It's simple but cool.
                  • izzyi
                    izzyi8 days
                    i am a painter (im not famous😁) but thats not how it works you have to actually put PAINT on it to be a PAINTING because a painting has paint on it kinda self explanatory.
                    • ricardoglizzy
                      This is not art. he didn't do anything to deserve that type of money. I think its sad that people instead of using money for good they waste it on this.
                      • bigbookworm
                        it's not what is on the paper what counts. I could draw a dot and you might say it's no good. But actually, i drew everything! Because a tree is made up of a dot, a dog is made up of a dot, and even an elephant! So, it is the feeling when you create the painting that counts. I think it is amazing.