Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Ima
In fall 2021, a Danish museum opened two large cases to inspect two works it had commissioned from artist Jens Haaning.
But when museum staff brought out the paintings, a new work the artist had informed the museum about was titled Take the money and run — the canvases were completely blank.
The museum, the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, had given Haaning a loan of 532,549 Dutch crowns, the equivalent of about $76,400. The money was to be used to recreate two earlier works by Haaning which depicted – in hard cash affixed to a canvas in a frame – the average annual income of a Dane and an Austrian, as well as the considerable gap between them, reflecting salary differences. within the European Union.
Haaning has now been ordered by a Copenhagen court to repay most of the money – around $70,600 – as well as the equivalent of another $11,000 in legal fees.
“I’m shocked, but at the same time it’s exactly what I imagined,” Haaning told Danish public broadcaster DR on Monday.
“We are not a rich museum,” said Lasse Andersson, the museum director. The Guardian in 2021, explaining that the money came from reserves intended for the maintenance of the building. “We need to think carefully about how we spend our funds, and we don’t spend more than we can afford.”
The court judgment deducted approximately $5,700 from the total loan amount to serve as the artist’s fee and Haaning’s tour fee, since the museum nevertheless displayed the blank canvases in its “Work It Out” exhibit.
The curators at the Kunsten Museum seemed to have fully understood Haaning’s meaning.
“Haaning’s new work Take the money and run It is also a recognition that works of art, despite intentions to the contrary, are part of a capitalist system that values a work on the basis of certain arbitrary conditions,” explains the museum in its exhibition guide. “Even the money missing from the work has a monetary value when it is called art and thus shows how the value of money is an abstract quantity.
Haaning now appears to be in trouble, as he says he doesn’t have the money to reimburse the museum.
“It’s been good for my work, but it also puts me in an unmanageable situation where I don’t really know what to do,” the artist told DR.