Modern art or theft? Jens Haaning takes the money and runs with the $ 84,000 from the Danish museum
A blank canvas serves as the beginning of almost all paintings. Ripe with potential, he is full of possibilities and promise, just waiting for the artist to leave his distinctive mark on him and in the world. But what if the finished artwork is itself a blank canvas?
Recently in Denmark, artist Jens Haaning took the relationship between art and social commentary to the next level by submitting two empty canvases to a Danish museum. Originally paid around $ 84,000 to create new works of modern art, Haaning instead submitted the two blank canvases titled “Take the Money and Run”, insisting that they are a commentary on mediocre wages. .
However, the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art disagrees, saying Haaning failed to fulfill their contract to deliver the art and refund the money, although they have since exhibited the pieces as part of their exhibition entitled “Work It Out”, itself a broader exploration of people and their relationship to work.
The ensuing controversy sparked debates over Haaning’s methods. Did he, in fact, create something? Is the statement itself art? Or does he simply, as his paintings suggest, take the money and run?
The Kunsten Museum commission was part of a deal with Haaning, and the money (over half a million crowns) was intended to be featured as a cover of one of the artist’s earliest works, ” In Gennemsnitlig Dansk Ã rsindkomst “. Translated as “Danish Average Annual Income, 2010”, this coin consisted of around 280 banknotes, or around 53,000 USD. The work was on display alongside a second piece illustrating the annual income in Austria, and was itself controversial at the time, as viewers and critics were both captivated and somewhat mystified by nature apparently ambiguity of the couple. Was the material representation of annual income meant to be a commentary on pay differentials in Denmark (and in the European Union in general)? Or was it just a way to shock viewers through a garish display of money in its physical form?
Either way, the pieces sparked interest and debate. This, coupled with Haaning’s reputation for dynamic modern art that raises broader societal, cultural and political questions, was enough for the Kunsten to provide him with the dough in an attempt to create a retaliation for his earlier work for their exhibition. “Work It Out”. .
While there have been mixed reactions to the blank canvases, those of Kunsten admit that Haaning’s work was provocative. “It wasn’t what we agreed to in the contract, but we got some new and interesting art,” Kunsten CEO Lasse Andersson admitted in a recent exchange with NPR.
For his part, Haaning was transparent in his messages. Unlike his previous silver-laden plays, “Take the Money and Run” was not lacking in ambiguity. âThe job is that I took their money,â he says. Through the blank canvases, he wanted to comment on his own working situation as an artist, and on the âmiserable working conditionsâ according to which he would have had to pay money out of his own pocket to recreate his own work for the Kunsten. . While the museum disagrees, the work has certainly sparked controversy within the artistic community, both in Denmark and around the world, reinforcing the power of art as an effective and efficient medium. to shape perceptions and opinions. Even if it’s just a blank canvas.