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Jens Haaning: Danish museum gives artist $117k, he turns in two blank canvases

A museum gave Danish artist Jens Haaning $117,000 to create an artwork for its exhibition. The work he turned in was not what the curators expected. It was a case of art imitating a heist. Just in case you thought charging $A167,000 for a banana was highway robbery, a Danish museum has given an artist $A117,000 to use for a commissioned piece – only to have him pocket the cash and turn in two blank canvases cheekily entitled, “Take the Money and Run”. The New York Post reports the empty robbery occurred after the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg asked Danish artist Jens Haaning to recreate two of his prior works: 2010’s “An Average Danish Annual Income” and “An Average Austrian Annual Income” first exhibited in 2007.

According to CBS News, the politically charged pieces used actual banknotes to showcase the average incomes of citizens of Denmark and Austria. The reboots were slated to appear in ‘Work it Out’, a current exhibition on the role of artists in the labor market. Along with an undisclosed compensation for the project, the institution lent Mr. Haaning $A117,000 – and offered an additional 6000 euros (about $A9700) if needed. Per the contract, that amount would have to be returned to the museum at the end of the exhibition on January 16, 2022. But the curators first suspected something was amiss upon receiving an email from Mr. Haaning that said he had changed the artwork’s name to “Take the Money and Run”.

Jens Haaning

Indeed, when museum staffers opened up the box containing Mr. Haaning’s contributions, they discovered two blank canvasses – while the cash had disappeared entirely. “The money had not been put into the work,” museum director Lasse Andersson told CBS. Mr. Haaning said he had good reason for literally drawing a blank. “The work is that I have taken their money,” the nada-Vinci told Danish radio program P1 Morgen last week of the irreverent performance piece and mega-minimalist work. “It’s not theft. It is a breach of contract, and breach of contract is part of the work.” The artist said he had conceived the cheeky creation as a protest against the pittance he received for inclusion in the show, which reportedly required him to pay nearly $5600 to reimagine the two works, according to ArtNet.

The insolent gag might sound like the art world equivalent of a high school slacker fudging an exam. Still, the artist claimed the piece provided relevant political commentary on the status of artists in society. “It questions artists’ rights and working conditions to establish more equitable norms within the art industry,” he said in a press release. “Everyone would like to have more money and, in our society, work industries are valued differently,” said Mr. Haaning. “The artwork is essentially about the working conditions of artists. It is a statement saying that we are also responsible for questioning the structures we are part of. And if these structures are completely unreasonable, we must break with them.”

He said the provocative piece did not just apply to the art world. “I encourage others who have just as miserable working conditions as me to do the same,” he explained. “If they are sitting on some sh*t job and not getting money and are being asked to give money to go to work, then take the box and (run) off.” Mr. Andersson, for one, actually found the on-the-nose stunt amusing. “Jens is known for his conceptual and activistic art with a humoristic touch,” the art director mused.

“And he gave us that – but also a wake-up call, as everyone now wonders where the money went.” As for the $A117,000, Mr. Hanning “hasn’t broken any contract yet,” Mr. Andersson said, since repayment isn’t due until early next year. However, if the money is not returned by then, the museum will “take the necessary steps to ensure” the provocateur coughs it up. This article originally appeared in the New York Post and was reproduced with permission. Originally published asMuseumm gives artist $117,000, only for him to turn in blank canvases.

Gemma Broadhurst
I am a writer by profession, and I love to write in my spare time. I am one of the most experienced writer for newspriest. I always make sure that whatever is written on my blog is 100% genuine and true. I am a University of Florida graduate pursuing a Master's degree.

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