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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167 Comments
  • tennisplayer
    tennisplayer4 months
    Art is how a person sees it a relates it no to person seeing the same thing in a picture but still how is this art.
    • roma2010king11
      how is that art
      • bagelhopper
        bagelhopper5 months
        Take the money and run perfectly describes what he did, Just left out some canvas' and strolled to the bank to collect his check
        • rennymarco
          rennymarco5 months
          He is smart. I like his thinking
          • mimi_monkey
            mimi_monkey6 months
            i dont want to be rude but a 2 year old could present something better than him.
            • luketheawesome
              Art's not supposed to be about " making a statement, " it's about making something beautiful. I like the title though
              • vpdecathlon
                vpdecathlon5 months
                It is about making a statement though many pieces of art changed how people think
              • aestheticblues
                Art isn't just about paint or money, its about creating something out of nothing. Letting your mind and hands and brushes control how you express yourself. That is true art
                • khloeb-edr
                  khloeb-edr7 months
                  It is art because white is a color it can explain feeling like I have nothing in my head im blank
                • ponygirl11
                  ponygirl117 months
                  I don't think it looks like a work of art. It would make sense if it had more colors then just white. But I guess I they are enjoying it then I guess it is fine.😶😶
                  • ponygirl11
                    ponygirl117 months
                    I don't think it looks like a work of art.😕But me and my cousins all painted 😃😃