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Blank Canvas Sells for $83,000

Take the Money and Run is the aptly titled work by Jens Haaning.

The Kunsten Museum commissioned the Danish artist to produce two reproductions of his previous work, representing the annual salary in Denmark and Austria. Instead, Haaning produced two blank canvases and pocketed 534,000 kroner ($83,000) for his efforts. Haaning defended his actions, explaining the cost of recreating his past works would have put him 25,000 kroner out of pocket.

Onlooker admiring, Take the Money and Run, by Jens Haaning (Reuters photo).
Onlooker admiring, Take the Money and Run, by Jens Haaning (Reuters photo).

The museum's reaction has so far been mixed. "He stirred up my curatorial staff and he also stirred me up a bit," said Lasse Andersson, director of the museum in the city of Aalborg.

The museum has refuted Mr Haaning's claim that they did not pay him fairly.

"It's the museum's money and we have a contract saying that the money will be back on 16 January 2022," said my Andersson.

Jens Haaning, running off with the money.
Jens Haaning, running off with the money.

But Mr Haaning, 56, has vowed to keep the cash.

"The work is that I have taken their money," he told dr.dk.

"I encourage other people who have just as miserable working conditions as me to do the same."


As a commentary on the annual salary in Denmark and Austria, Take the Money and Run brilliantly highlights the tension between employers and employees. This meta-art has moved 'off canvas,' ironically becoming what it aims to represent—so is this work visual art, or is it a performance piece? Could it be that the artist and the museum are simply engaged in a tension-filled, scripted conflict? Or is their clash over the work a genuine industrial dispute?

"The work is that I have taken their money." - Jens Haaning, artist.

Blank canvases, and even nothing at all, have a prominent place within the art world.

The Italian artist Salvatore Garau recently produced an invisible sculpture titled Lo Sono. Italian for, I Am. It sold at auction for 15,000 euros.

And before him—while avoiding producing art in the 1960s—the incomparable Hamish 'Hamish' Smythe said, "Creating nothing is the highest form of art, for it is a work that nobody is yet to produce."


After creating Take the Money and Run, Jens Haaning took the money and ran, proving once again that it's not the physical fact of a work of art that matters but the immaterial controversy it manifests.

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