Checking in on the Art World . . . Again (Ep. 287)

After last week’s podcast about interesting art world stories popping up over the past couple of weeks, somehow there were even more stories coming out this week? Listen as Amanda Heyn joins Tim and they run through a couple of follow-up stories, share a twist on Jasper Johns’ new exhibit, and talk about the Danish artist who absconded with $84,000 from the museum that was showing his work.  Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by The Art of Education University, and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz. We are traveling back into the art world. Again, today. First there was a lot of good feedback from last week, and then a couple of absolutely fascinating stories came out this past week, one of which is a follow-up to last week’s episode. We have more to talk about this time around. But before we start, a couple follow-ups to what we discussed last time.

First, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s L’Arc de Triomphe came down over the weekend. It was an absolutely amazing work. I loved it. I loved seeing more from Christo and Jeanne-Claude even posthumously. I actually learned that the L’Arc de Triomphe being wrapped was 60 years, almost 60 years in the making. They first envisioned it in 1962, which is pretty spectacular. But I found a really good site with some photos of the setup of the finished product and everything then went with that. We’ll link that in the show notes.

There’s a really cool timeline with a lot of amazing photos on Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s website. I’m going to link that as well. If you just want to check it out a little bit more now that it’s wrapped up, then we will have those links for you and those will be available. Also, we had the Van Gogh Immersive Experience discussion last week. I got some feedback a little bit from people who didn’t like it and didn’t enjoy their experience, but a lot of feedback from people who really enjoyed it. They really enjoyed the immersive thing.

They enjoyed learning more about Van Gogh, and they said it was totally worth it and would happily do it again. Honestly, I can’t keep track of the, what, four or five different experiences that are out there and who was doing what, but it was more positive than I thought and I heard that from a lot of our teachers. Very happy for you all if you enjoyed that experience. But a couple of new stories that we talked about.

One is another Jasper Johns’ story, and I’ll summarize that in a little bit here, but basically he’s taken an artwork for my high school kid and putting it into his own art for this show that’s opening. That’s an interesting one. I want to talk a little bit about that. And then the other one that was popular, I saw this all over social media, was the art museum in Denmark who gave an artist the equivalent of $84,000 to create an artwork. He created an art work called Take the Money and Run, where he literally took that $84,000 and turned it into blank canvases for display.

The taking of the money was his art or was his performance. I think that’s a good one. I wanted to invite somebody on to chat with me about these things, because it’s a little more fun when we have back and forth rather than just me talking. Right now coming on is my favorite boss, my favorite NOW co-host Amanda Heyn.

All right, Amanda Heyn is here. Amanda, welcome back to the show. How are you?

Amanda: Thanks so much for having me. I’m so excited about our chat today. I’m doing pretty well. My husband has been gone for seven days. It’s been like a fun time, but I’m really excited for him to come back today.

Tim: When he comes back, are you going to be like, welcome back? Are you going to be like, here’s the kids, I’m out of here for a bit?

Amanda: I mean, I think it’s a both/and situation. Hi, I love you and I’m going on a two-hour walk.

Tim: That seems fair.

Amanda: How are you?

Tim: I’m doing well. Well, actually I have a little bit of a dilemma. I don’t know. We always start with random crap. This podcast will be no different. I need your advice. My credit card has given me the option to get a new credit card, like with quick pictures on it. There’s lots of fun options of like palm trees and landscapes and whatever. I don’t need any of those, but there are three artistic options. Two of them are Monet. One of them is just all full of like lavender. I don’t know what type of flowers. Don’t love it, so that one’s out for me.

But there is another Monet. It’s the Water Lilies one. Looks good, but the perspective is weird. The framing of it is kind of weird. And the other one is Seurat Sunday Afternoon, the Island of La Grande Jatte or whatever that’s called, which I feel good about, but it’s also kind of over done. I know this is weird without seeing them where. Which direction do you think I should go?

Amanda: I mean, can you send me a picture of them?

Tim: Yeah. Well, I mean you know what Sunday Afternoon looks like.

Amanda: Yes. Okay. My concern with Sunday Afternoon is, is it too many things on a credit card? Isn’t that painting like takes up a whole wall?

Tim: Yeah, it’s like four feet long. Yeah, yeah. But at the same time, it’s a pretty clear picture on the card. The detail is good. You know exactly what it is. I feel all right about it.

Amanda: Okay. Second question, do you will love any of these paintings? Are they your favorite? Do you want to look at any of these paintings like every day?

Tim: Well, I want to look at them more than I look at my regular credit card right now. It’s significantly cooler. I love Monet. I love his Water Lilies, so that is a point in that favor. I also love Sunday Afternoon. Maybe not that much. Also, it’s hanging in my house, like a reproduction of it.

Amanda: It’s not the real one.

Tim: No, I did not have the real one. I should clarify. I don’t know. I’m not in love with either of them, but I do like them and it’s a big step up then just like a plain black credit card. It’s much cooler.

Amanda: Well, not for me. I much prefer like a matte black credit card. I would be so happy if I got a black credit card actually, but this is not about me. Would any of them made you more or less inclined to spend money? Do they have like a soothing effect? I don’t know. Is there a psychological reason?

Tim: No, no. I just like them. I like looking at them. I like the feeling of like pulling out my wallet and pulling out a cool-looking credit card. It might me spend more money, to be honest. That’s kind of vapid, but like…

Amanda: You want to look cool?

Tim: Always. You know me. My biggest concern is looking cool.

Amanda: Yes, absolutely. Okay. Last question, what is inside your heart? What is your gut? Three, two, one, which one do you like the best?

Tim: I don’t love either of them.

Amanda: Okay. Then we don’t get something we don’t love just to have an art credit card.

Tim: All right. All right. Fine.

Amanda: I think that’s the answer.

Tim: I think so.

Amanda: I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s the answer I wanted to come to, but it might.

Tim: It might be the right one.

Amanda: We might just need to wait. Maybe next time you renew… Maybe we can provide feedback. Are you comfortable with saying what brand it is, and then like art teachers could provide feedback about like other designs they would like to see?

Tim: Oh, possibly. Yeah. It’s a Discover card.

Amanda: Okay. Any art teachers that have Discover, like go online, check out the designs, give your critique to Discover, and then maybe next time.

Tim: See if there are more options.

Amanda: Is there an option to upload your own for an extra fee?

Tim: Oh, I should check into that too.

Amanda: I feel like I may just have solved the problem.

Tim: Possibly, but you know what we have done for sure is we’ve talked way too long about this.

Amanda: I disagree. I think that was productive.

Tim: I’m going to shift gears anyway and we’re going to dive into more happenings from the art world. I teased these in the intro and kind of following up on what we talked about last week, but the brand new story that I absolutely love this week, this modern art museum in Denmark gave an artist named Jens Haaning $84,000 to create a work, and he gave them back two blank canvases and that is his work. He’s saying that this is performance. He’s saying it’s a breach of contract and the breach of contract is part of the artwork.

He says, “The work is that I have taken their money,” which really made him laugh. I don’t know if something got lost in translation there, but it’s such a great quote. The work is I took their money. Where do you come down on this? Just asking for $84,000 to make art and then keeping it, is that a crime? Is it a brilliant piece of performance art? Or does it come down somewhere in between for you?

Amanda: Okay. First, I want to be clear, taking $84,000 from a bank is definitely a crime. If you just take money that’s not yours, I believe it’s not okay.

Tim: I appreciate you clarifying that first.

Amanda: Because the next thing you want to say is like I love it. I love this piece. I think it’s brilliant. I think he should keep the money. I think he gave them a piece of art. It wasn’t a piece of art they wanted. And maybe if the contract is clear enough, they might be able to get their money back. But I really think he provided something that’s probably causing more of a stir and more publicity for the museum than whatever he was supposed to do in the first place.

Would we be talking about a small art museum in Denmark if you just made the artwork he was supposed to make? I really don’t think so.

Tim: Exactly. I was not ever going to run into anything telling me about the modern art museum in Aalborg, Denmark, but now I know exactly what’s going on there. And that actually kind of goes into the next question I wanted to ask, the museum is there. They’re laughing this out for all it’s worth. They’re showing the blank canvases with the title Take the Money and Run.

Amanda: Yes.

Tim: They’re giving interviews about it, and they’re complimenting the artwork, and they’re promoting the show, but they still want the money back at the end of the exhibition. Doesn’t that kind of feel like they’re trying to have it both ways?

Amanda: It totally does. I think if they would’ve said like, “Absolutely not. We’re not showing this. Either do what you were supposed to do or whatever, we’re suing…” I don’t know how you get the money back actually. I have no idea how that works, but we’re going to pursue getting the money back. It was just kept quiet and they just didn’t show what they were supposed to show, then I think that’s a totally different story.

But I think, yeah, exactly, they’re totally capitalizing on what he did, and they’re getting a bunch of publicity and a bunch of visitors and money. I think he should be compensated for that because it’s his idea. He’s the reason that this is happening.

Tim: Absolutely. I 100% agree. I totally want him to keep some money. Now the big question, just from reading what you’ve read, do you think he will give the money back? I don’t think he should, but I don’t know if you will.

Amanda: Well, okay. I’m very into rules. The rule follower in me wants to say like it depends on the contract. What were the stipulations laid out at the beginning? Was it like you provide us with this you get nothing, or was it just like you provide us with artwork and you get… Well, although wasn’t he supposed to use… Maybe I am misremembering this…

Tim: No, no, you’re right.

Amanda: …but I think we was supposed to use the bills to create the money. It was the art material. It was the medium based on a previous work he had done like 10 years ago.

Tim: He was supposed to like reprise one of his earlier artworks. And then he decided, “No, I don’t want to do that.”

Amanda: I don’t know what his previous artwork was like, but if he was going to glue them to the canvas or a fix them or rip them, I mean, then the money is lost anyway. Then the museum was not expecting, I wouldn’t think, to get the cash back. No, I don’t think he’s going to, or maybe he’ll donate it. Maybe this will have like a happy ending and he’ll donate half of it or something. I don’t know. Do you think he will?

Tim: Oh God, I hope not.

Amanda: Me too.

Tim: I hope he fights it. I hope he keeps the money because like I said, I think this is a brilliant piece. I love it.

Amanda: I wonder if he’s going to do something else. I wonder if he’s going to shred it or I wonder if he’s… You know what I mean? Maybe there’s a part coming.

Tim: It’s like part of the performance art?

Amanda: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tim: Yeah, I like it.

Amanda: Yeah.

Tim: I’m intrigued.

Amanda: Me too.

Tim: Well, and like we always say, good art provokes a reaction and that has done that for sure.

Amanda: And I think this is a perfect thing to talk about with kids too. It’s like the duct tape banana. It’s so off the wall and so accessible. You know what I mean? There’s no high concepts. I mean, you can and you can get into all sorts of economic commentary. But at the core, I think it’s something that almost any level of kiddo could engage in a discussion about, which I think is pretty cool.

Tim: Absolutely. Absolutely. That was the point I was going to make too. I think it’s open for a lot of great discussion. I’d be interested to hear what a classroom of kids thinks about it.

Amanda: Yeah, like elementary kids even. I mean, you should definitely discuss it with your high schoolers, but I think it would be fascinating. I’m planning on talking about it with my eight year old and five-year-old after school today. They’re going to have some interesting things to say about it.

Tim: I think that’ll be a good discussion. Let me know how that goes. Secondly, we have another important story to talk about. This one takes a little while to explain, if you’ll indulge me. I talked about Jasper Johns last week, along with that great Jerry Saltz, and Jasper Johns has a new exhibition opening in both New York and Philadelphia. It’s apparently too big to fit into one city. He’s been in the news a lot, but there’s a Washington Post article this week about Jasper Johns using this high school kids artwork in one of his own paintings.

To sum it up, Jéan-Marc Togodgue, he’s the high school student, he created a drawing of the anatomy of his knee before he had surgery and gave the drawing to his doctor. It was hanging in the doctor’s office. Jasper Johns goes to the same doctor and he sees the drawing. He loves the drawing, so he takes it and copies it into one of his paintings. Then Jasper Johns, after the fact, like two years after the fact writes, Jéan-Marc a letter and says, “Hey, I used your drawing in my painting.

Sorry, I didn’t ask your permission, but I needed to be happy with the fact that I did that because I’m Jasper Johns.” No, he didn’t say because I’m Jasper Johns, but he did literally say I need to be happy with the fact that I used it. Jéan-Marc got to go meet Jasper Johns, see his studio, learn about who he was. He seemed pretty happy with it.

It seems like we could end things there, but that’s where it gets messy, because this story starts going around and a father of one of Jéan-Marc’s friends, the father is an artist named Brendan O’Connell, he hears about this story and says, “Wait a second, this is intellectual theft. This is a problem.” O’Connell teams up with an art historian named David Moose and they just kind of call foul on the whole thing. They write a letter to Johns basically accusing him of stealing Jéan-Marc’s work, not paying for it.

And then with that letter manipulating Jéan-Marc into accepting and approving that intellectual theft. Now lawyers get involved. Everybody goes quiet. It seems like now the exhibit is just kind of opening with that work on display. There’s a legal agreement. Everybody seems happy, and we haven’t heard much more controversies since then. Not a lot coming out at the moment. Long explanation.

But Amanda, reading the story, knowing what you know about this, do you consider this just appropriation, like Jasper Johns had been doing for, what, 70 years and his art career, or do you think this is something a little bit more nefarious?

Amanda: Yeah. Well, there’s so much to dig into here. I may be coming at it from a different perspective than you because I don’t really care about Jasper Johns. I know the flags and that’s kind of it. I don’t have like a love for him or for his work. To me, it just seems really… Okay, I’m not going to swear, but really crappy. It just seems like a crappy thing to do to a kid.

Tim: It’s shady. It’s real shady.

Amanda: It’s shady. Yes. There’s a couple of things for me that make it extra shady. One, the kid’s name is on the artwork. You can find it very big on the artwork. It’s like part of the design, right? Even if it was some random thing that he saw in a doctor’s office, there’s very clearly a name of an artist on the piece. And then I think another thing that’s interesting about it is… If I remember right, for the same work, he also swiped this map made by some an astrophysicist or…

Tim: Yeah, some kind of scientist. I think she sent him the map though.

Amanda: Yes. Okay. She sent him the map, and she was happy that he used it, but I get the sense that he didn’t really ask her either.

Tim: Right.

Amanda: I think there’s also like the play of power here. This astrophysicist sent the work and she’s like this renowned world scientist and is like sort of a partner or an equal to him, right? As like someone really well-known in her field.

Tim: She’s at the top of her field.

Amanda: Yeah. Her work is being featured in his work. That’s cool. It’s kind of mutually beneficial for both of them. And then there’s just this like super awesome, which… I love this drawing that he utilized or whatever, but the super cool knee painting by a random high school kid, there’s just this weird power dynamic. I hate the way he’s trying to manipulate Jéan-Marc thinking this is cool versus apologizing, which I think is what he should’ve done. I don’t know. That’s kind of my take on the whole situation. What do you think?

Jasper Johns is like, I don’t know, I feel like he’s had a long fall in seven days here on the Art Ed Radio Podcast, but I’m interested to hear what your thoughts are.

Tim: No, I liked Jasper Johns. I’m very bothered by his actions here. I was just thinking about appropriation and taking work. You don’t do that. Jasper Johns does that. That’s what he’s been doing for his entire career. I think at this point, he can be old and curmudgeonly and not give interviews and just be like, “Forget it. I can do what I want.” But at the same time, you don’t need to wait two years to let this kid know, “I used your work.” The only reason he’s telling this kid is because it’s about to go up in an exhibit.

That’s really shady. You don’t want artists to have to go through all of these processes to get permission to use the work. When inspiration strikes, go with it, but then let people know. Let people know that you’re using their work.

Amanda: It’s not that he was inspired. It’s literally a tromp… How do you say that?

Tim: Trompe l’oeil, I think. We’re always bad at pronouncing stuff here.

Amanda: It’s an exact copy. He’s exactly copying it and saying it’s his. It’s wild to me.

Tim: Yeah, same. Same. Okay, but here’s my question though, after the lawyers got involved and everything gets taken care of, there’s a licensing agreement. Jéan-Marc is obviously getting some money it’s secret. We don’t know how much, but he’s getting some money. He gets his name up on a painting in the Whitney Museum. And he seems happy with the whole thing. Should that be the end of the story for us or do we keep pushing like, Jasper Johns, you’re a terrible person?

Amanda: Right yeah, that’s interesting. I mean, I think this goes back to the discussion that a lot of us have been having for a long time, which is like most artists from art history are terrible people. Like a lot of them, right? If we said like, “Oh, we’re not going to view any artwork by anybody who was problematic,” the art museums would be empty, which is, A, very sad. Don’t get me wrong. I wish it wasn’t that way, but I just have really conflicted feelings about it. I mean, I think in this case. Jasper Jones should get a little heat.

I don’t think we should just let him off the hook, and I think that if Jean-Marc is happy with the agreement and if he’s truly happy with how everything turned out, then great. Then we don’t need to talk it to death. That’s great if he’s happy with it, but I don’t know. I’m going to be salty about Jasper Johns for probably until he dies, because he’s like 90 years old.

Tim: I don’t know that I would put Jasper Johns in the category of problematic. I think on the whole, he’s a good person, but I think this is a blatant abuse of power, like you said. The power dynamics are shocking here. I think it’s a very, very bad look for him. But in the end, if Jéan-Marc is happy with this, I don’t know who we are to say, “No, you shouldn’t be.” He seems to be in a good spot. I think that’s fine, and I think we can probably let it go. But yeah, I think it’s worth calling out when we find these things.

Amanda: I think it was really interesting too because I read that he had a wrist injury or something playing basketball. Do you believe that? I think it’s cool. I think it’s really cool to talk about especially at a high school classroom because this was like a high school kid going through this experience.

Tim: Yeah, he’s like 17.

Amanda: Right. It’s super cool and also there’s like a therapeutic aspect to it. The whole reason he drew his knee is because he got hurt and he was processing. And now he hurt his wrist, and so he drew his wrist and he’s processing. But they did advise him to give a copy to the doctor and said… He kept me original this time. I think that was probably wise. We’ll see. Maybe he’ll have an art career of some kind. That would be cool.

Tim: Smart way to go about it. I’m a basketball coach and I ended up going down a rabbit hole watching this kid’s highlights. I had to check that out. He’s good. He’ll be able to play in college. He’s not going pro. Basketball is not going to be his career. Maybe art is where he can go.

Amanda: That would be awesome.

Tim: We can keeps tabs on him. Cool. All right, well, Amanda, we will wrap it up there. Thank you so much for coming on. It’s always good to talk to you, and I enjoy chatting about art and everything going on in the art world with you.

Amanda: Yes. Same.

Tim: All right. That will do it for us today. Big thank you to Amanda for coming on. A point that she made, a point that we talked about a little bit and that I hit last week as well is these stories that we find from the art world are incredible for discussions in your art room. Just so many stories out there, so many things happening. They can lead to some great discussions if you are framing it in the right way. Or even if it’s about an artist stealing $84,000, there’s really no right way to frame that. Just tell your kids about that.

See what they think and I think it’ll lead to some good discussions in your classroom. Those conversations are worth having. They’re worth doing more often. I hope that the last couple of weeks of the podcast maybe can give you the impetus you need to get that going into your classroom. Art Ed Radio is produced by The Art of Education University with audio engineering by Michael Crocker. Thank you for listening and we will talk to you next week.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.