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Danish artist accepts $84,000 commission, unveils blank canvases titled "Take The Money And Run"

Jens Haaning's latest work is two white canvases, currently exhibited at the Kunsten Museum Of Modern Art

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It’s a polar bear in the snow, actually.
It’s a polar bear in the snow, actually.
Photo: Henning Bagger (Getty Images)

Danish artist Jens Haaning recently unveiled his latest work. It was commissioned with the understanding that he would use $84,000 in dollar bills provided by a museum in its creation, but it turned out to consist of two completely white canvases titled “Take The Money And Run.”

Per CBS, Haaning was brought on to remake two of his older pieces, “An Average Danish Annual Income” and “An Average Austrian Annual Income,” which “both used actual cash to show the average incomes of the two countries.” Haaning was provided “bank notes to use in the work” in the form of $84,000 USD on top of his commission. The artist’s contract stipulates that the $84K in dollars doesn’t belong to him and has to be returned at the end of the exhibition early next year.

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Kunsten Museum Of Modern Art’s director Lasse Andersson says Haaning told him via email that instead of recreating old work, he’d made something new called “Take The Money And Run.” Then he delivered the blank canvases, no cash included, and Andersson says he thought it was funny and interesting but that it also gave the Kunsten Museum “a bit of a wake up call as everyone [now] wonders where did the money go.”

Haaning issued a press release saying that “the artwork is essentially about the working conditions of artists” and meant to make “a statement saying that we also have the responsibility of questioning the structures that we are part of.”

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“... If these structures are completely unreasonable, we must break with them,” he writes.

For his part, Andersson says Haaning “hasn’t broken any contract yet” and still has until January 16th, 2022 to return the $84,000 USD given to him for use in the piece.

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In a time when some artists are doing shit like selling NFT JPEGs in an effort to erode both the viability of our planet’s future and the long-term health of the art world, it’s sort of refreshing to see some good old-fashioned statement-making/trolling on par with a banana taped to a gallery wall.

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