A Danish court yesterday ordered an artist to repay a museum that gave him 70,000 euros in cash for art – just for supplying blank canvases.
Jens Haaning was commissioned by the Arts Museum in the western city of Aalborg to reproduce two works using cash – Danish crowns and euros – to represent the annual salary in Denmark and Austria.
But Haaning simply brought blank canvases back to the museum and said his work was titled “Take the Money and Run.”
Museum director Lasse Andersson previously said he laughed out loud when he saw the two blank canvases for the first time in 2021, and decided to show the works anyway.
He said they have a “humorous approach” and are “a reflection of how we value work,” but confirmed that the museum would take Haaning to court if he did not pay back the money, which he declined to do.
A court in Copenhagen on Monday ordered the artist, 58, to repay the museum the amount it gave him minus the artist’s fee and editing costs.
But in an interview with TV2 Nord television on Monday, Haaning said the museum had made “much, much more” money than what it had invested thanks to the publicity surrounding the affair.
“It’s been good for my work, but it also puts me in an uncontrollable situation where I don’t really know what to do,” he added.
The museum believed that the artist intended to include the banknotes in an installation they had commissioned him to make. But when the artwork was first unveiled, museum staff were shocked to find nothing but a large, empty frame
The museum nevertheless decided to put the empty frames on display, admitting that Haaning had created an “interesting work of art,” but a Danish court ultimately ordered the artist to return the money.
Jens Haaning, a 58-year-old artist living in Copenhagen, received 534,000 kroner in cash from the Arts Museum in Aalborg to use as part of a work of art, but instead he sent the museum empty frames and took the money
The museum initially thought that the artist intended to incorporate the banknotes they had made available to him into an installation they had commissioned him to make.
But when the artwork was first unveiled, museum staff were shocked to find nothing but a large, empty frame.
Shortly after the curtains were first unveiled, Haaning said: “It’s not theft. It is a breach of contract, and breach of contract is part of the job,” he said.
“The work is that I took their money.”
Born in 1965 in Hoersholm, Haaning became popular in the 1990s for his art that focuses on power structures and differences between social groups, and had previously created artworks using banknotes to represent employees’ annual salaries.
The museum expected Haaning to use the money it lent him to recreate his earlier artwork by placing the banknotes in two picture frames, which would visualize the average annual income of a person in Denmark and Austria and be part of the ‘Work It Out’. exhibition.
The exhibition runs from September 28 to January 16 and features new and existing works by approximately 20 artists and covers most of the museum.
But just as the installation was about to open for the first time, the museum received an email from Haaning, confirming that he had taken the money and would not pay it back.
“We were then able to determine that the money had not been invested in the work,” says a museum spokesperson.
The Arts Museum of Modern Art in Aarlborg, Northern Denmark, presents Haaning’s artworks as part of the installation ‘Work it Out’
Take the Money and Run’ by Danish artist Jens Haaning, on display at the Kunsten museum in Aalborg, Sweden, September 28, 2021. The list should have been filled with approximately 550,000 Danish kroner in cash, which should correspond to the average annual salary in Austria and Denmark
In 2021, Arts director Lasse Andersen told DR that he agreed that Haaning had created an interesting work of art and that the museum would continue to exhibit the empty frames but would take legal action if the artist did not return the money before the agreed date of January 16 would return. , 2022.
‘I agree with Jens that an independent work has been created that actually comments on the exhibition we have. But that’s not the agreement we had,” he said.
‘We are currently waiting. If the money is not refunded as agreed on January 16, we will of course take the necessary steps to ensure that Jens Haaning fulfills his contract.’
Andersen claimed that the artist’s contract with the museum included an exhibition fee for his work of approximately €1,340, but that the museum would cover all costs up to €6,000.
For his part, Haaning said he had taken the money in response to his poor working conditions, claiming the museum’s meager wages meant he had had to sacrifice £2,850 of his own money to complete the installation.
‘[Returning the money] not going to happen. The work is that I took their money,” he told Danish broadcaster DR.
‘I encourage other people whose working conditions are as bad as mine to do the same.
“If they have a shitty job and they’re not getting paid, and they’re actually being asked to pay money to go to work, take what you can and beat it,” he said.