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Artist ordered to return $76,000 grant after he submitted artwork that was just blank frames

Artist ordered to return $76,000 grant after he submitted artwork that was just blank frames

Jens Haaning titled the work 'Take the Money and Run'.

A Danish artist has been ordered to return the grant money he was given to commission artwork for a museum.

The Guardian describes Jens Haaning as a 'conceptual artist', which usually means that the idea behind the given artwork is more important than the actual product.

Well, it was certainly a stretch when he submitted his artwork that was just two empty frames.

Haaning has produced work in the past that highlighted power, inequality and money.

Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg

He was given a kr532,000 (USD$76,256/£61,592) grant from the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg back in 2021 to come up with his latest take on the topic.

Haaning was given the cash, alongside the offer of a further €6,000 (USD$6,411/£5,178) in banknotes if required, to recreate his previous works entitled 'An Average Danish Annual Income' and 'An Average Austrian Annual Income' for a specific exhibit called 'Work It Out'.

Both of those pieces used physical currency to outline how much people in Austria and Denmark earn.

His grant money was also on top of an artist's fee of kr25,000 (USD$3,853/£2,892) for the work.

But you can imagine the museum's shock when they opened the delivery and wondered whether there was meant to be something on the blank frames.

Funnily enough, Haaning titled his piece 'Take the Money and Run'.

Museum director Lasse Andersson told CBS: "I was abroad when the crates were opened, but suddenly received a lot of mails."

Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg

He added: "Jens is known for his conceptual and activistic art with a humoristic touch. And he gave us that - but also a bit of a wake-up call as everyone now wonders where did the money go?"

The Museum decided to display the artwork even though it didn't have anything on it, however they decided to take legal action when the artist refused to return the money.

Jens told Danish radio at the time: “The work is that I have taken their money. It’s not theft. It is breach of contract, and breach of contract is part of the work.”

He added: “I encourage other people who have working conditions as miserable as mine to do the same.

"If they’re sitting in some s***ty job and not getting paid, and are actually being asked to pay money to go to work, then grab what you can and beat it.”

However, Hanning has now been ordered to pay back the grant money.

Jens said he should at least still be given his fee for his idea.

Featured Image Credit: Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg