Blank canvases sold as art

Art, that concept so… fuzzy, at least in recent times. What new mischief did it haul in its name this time? That of Jens Haaning, a 56-year-old artist. He lives in Copenhagen. His work gained popularity in the 1990s. A museum sued him for swindling. For what? For something you might call… difference of opinion. The culprits are blank canvases sold as art.

Blank canvases sold as art are perhaps good for something. For painting, for example.
Blank canvases sold as art might be good for something. For painting, for example.

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Art… abstract?

What is the limit of what you consider artistic? It’s true that art galleries serve to take risks, to test concepts. The contemporary is mixed with the daring. But a Danish museum thinks it has gone too far. It claims to have been swindled by the artist Jens Haaning.

Haaning is known for conveying with his works criticisms about money. Also racism, power and marginalized groups. Now, he has presented a new work that differs from these themes. And so he sowed chaos at the Kunsten Museum of Contemporary Art in Aalborg, Denmark. He had asked for the payment of 534,000 kroner, equivalent to almost 72,000 euros, to make some works. What did he deliver? Empty canvases. Blank canvases sold as art.

For Haaning, this is “a work of art”. It is titled, unabashedly, “Take the Money and Run”. The museum had asked him to recreate an earlier work of his, consisting of two glass frames filled with banknotes. They reflected the annual income in Denmark (328,000 kroner) and Austria (25,000 euros).

If you're confused, you're not the only one.
If you’re confused, you’re not the only one.

However, the new version has not been the same. The Dane has decided to send the blank canvases and keep the 74,000 euros. And, for him, that is the “work of art”. The poster that accompanied the canvases says so.

According to Danish media, the artist refuses to return it. The museum is considering filing a complaint if it does not receive the money before January. On that date the exhibition ends. “Jens shouldn’t get the money because it’s not part of the agreement.” Lasse Andersson, director of the Kunsten Museum, says bitterly to the Danish media “P1 Morgen”.

“I want to give it the absolute right that a work has been created in its own right. But that’s not the agreement we had,” Andersson insists. Haaning, however, insists that will not happen. The artist insists that this is payment for the work he has made. Art stuff! Now you know. If you have a blank canvas lying around, unused… you can exhibit it now.

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