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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93 Comments
  • junebug3110
    Wow!
    • nick05
      nick055 days
      It would be cool to make money off of a blank canvas or page! I would be rich from my big posters that are blank.
    • tvesha8anime
      The most creative art I've ever seen lol. Omg, this makes me think of so many events like- an empty room in a new home with the smell of paint aah, a lonely person, white sand on the beautiful beaches, curd, marshmallow and my frock. 😆. Jens Hanning yo rock!
      • corgigurl
        corgigurl6 days
        Oh... Such a beautiful work of art! So creative! You can tell it took the artist days to make! (LOL I am joking but honestly, this is hilarious)
        • creamyblueberry
          Good one! 😂😂
          • bkevan1
            bkevan14 days
            HaHa good one :)
            • 0mg_3li
              0mg_3li5 days
              Yeah, I think its a little ridiculous, I mean 84,000!
              • lola_1234
                lola_12345 days
                😂 yeah but would you take the money and run??? Just kidding 😆
              • drewtech
                drewtech6 days
                $84,000?!
              • mototysi-159975675708
                this is the type of art that creates a conversation, like that banana. that conversation could also affect its value, so i think its pretty smart.
                • lola_1234
                  lola_12345 days
                  😳 that was… AMAZING 🥲 !!! You thought about that at a whole other perspective. Well done 👏
                • penguinpopper
                  This man is now my idol.
                  • jdude0
                    jdude07 days
                    That's one way to prank a museum
                    • genericperson01
                      its a masterpiece.
                    • hadley_theslaye
                      lol