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

Oct 8, 2021

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" masterpieces, comprising two empty frames have set back a local museum 534,000 Danish krone ($84,000)!

Earlier this year, the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in ​​Aalborg commissioned Haaning to create two pieces for their upcoming "Work It Out" exhibit highlighting the relationship between art and labor. Per their written agreement, the artist would use the 534,000 Danish krone ($84,000) lent to him by the museum to recreate two of his earlier works in which currency notes were used to showcase average incomes.

A 2007 work, entitled An Average Austrian Year Income displayed Euro bills on a canvas in a frame, while a second 2010 work about Danish incomes used krone notes. But when the museum opened the boxes sent by the artist before the exhibit's opening on September 24, 2021, they found two blank frames titled "Take the Money and Run." The museum officials acknowledge that Haaning's artwork is thought-provoking and unique and have even included them in the exhibit. But Andersson fully 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."

But Haaning believes he has fulfilled his contract given that the empty canvases highlight the unfair working conditions of many artists, including himself. The 56-year-old says the museum offered him a measly stipend of 15,000 kroner (about $3900) for the artworks, which 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."

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