Take The Money And Run

A Danish artist turned in two blank canvases, netting £62k. Is it high art, fraud, or a cheeky nod at the state of modern art?

Call it conceptual art. Call it a piss take. Or even, call it criminal. When it comes to Danish artist Jens Haaning, the jury was literally out earlier this month, after a Copenhagen court ordered Haaning to pay back his 532,000 kroner fee — around $75,000 or £62,2600 – for two blank artworks delivered in 2021.

Haaning was commissioned by the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art to recreate two of his famous artworks titled “An Average Danish Annual Income” and “An Average Austrian Annual Income,” which neatly lay out krone and euro banknotes across their respective canvasses, depicting the average annual income of a Danish or Austrian person. Completed in 2007, An Average Austrian Annual Income contains fifty one €500 notes, one €200 note, and two €2 coins, for a total of €25,704, the average annual income in Austria in 2005. The Danish version followed the same principle and was completed in 2010.

“Borders to be marked out or crossed, differences, inclusions and exclusions—these are a central theme in the work of Jens Haaning. For borders—territorial, national, linguistic, social, economic, cultural, legal—regulate the coexistence of different people and interests,” wrote the art magazine Secession upon the competition of “An Average Austrian Annual Income”.

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