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Artist Loaned $84,000 By Museum Returns Two Completely Blank Canvases

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Artist Loaned $84,000 By Museum Returns Two Completely Blank Canvases

A Danish artist who was loaned $84,000 (£62,000) by a museum to incorporate into recreations of two of his pieces turned in a pair of blank canvases and said they were a new artwork, entitled 'Take the Money and Run'.

Of course, the museum - the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg - was shocked, but a representative of the museum has since said it still represents the conceptually interesting artwork.

The debate as to what constitutes art has raged for centuries, from modern debates surrounding Banksy's graffiti pieces to Marcel Duchamp's 1917 work 'Fountain', which was just a urinal.

Now, Jens Haaning has had his say.

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Haaning was given the cash, alongside the offer of a further €6,000 (£5,000) 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'.

This was on top of an artist's fee of 25,000 Krone (£2,900) for the work.

Here's the artwork in the museum. Credit: Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg
Here's the artwork in the museum. Credit: Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg

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

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However, museum director Lasse Andersson said that despite being provided with the money, he just returned two canvases and his little joke.

When Haaning's original artworks were exhibited, the average Danish salary was 328,000 Danish Krone (£38,000), while the average Austrain salary was around €25,000 (£21,000).

Andersson told CBS News: "We also have a contract that the money $84,000 US dollars to be displayed in the work is not Jens' and that it must be paid back when the exhibition closes on 16 January 2022."

The museum had spoken to the artist earlier in the year and he'd 'indicated a fairly easy job'.

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That all changed when he decided to create a new piece.

Andersson explained: "The curator received an email in which Jens Haaning wrote that he had made a new piece of art work and changed the work title into 'Take the Money and Run'.

"Subsequently, we could ascertain that the money had not been put into the work."

Lasse Andersson, presumably trying to work out where the cash is. Credit: Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg
Lasse Andersson, presumably trying to work out where the cash is. Credit: Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg
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Indeed, it had not.

"The staff was very surprised when they opened the crates. I was abroad when the crates were opened, but suddenly received a lot of mails," Andersson said.

So, what can they do about it?

Well, Andersson said that when he first witnessed the artwork in the flesh, all he could do was laugh.

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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?"

Hanning's press release for his work states: "The idea behind was to show how salaries can be used to measure the value of work and to show national differences within the European Union.

"But by changing the title of the work to 'Take the Money and Run', Haaning questions artists' rights and their working conditions in order to establish more equitable norms within the art industry."

In a statement, he added: "Everyone would like to have more money and, in our society, work industries are valued differently.

"The artwork is essentially about the working conditions of artists."

Hey, it's a fascinating work, you have to admit. Credit: Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg
Hey, it's a fascinating work, you have to admit. Credit: Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg

Andersson added: "When it comes to the amount of $84,000, he hasn't broke any contract yet as the initial contract says we will have the money back on January 16th 2022."

If the money isn't returned by the time that date rolls around, the museum director says that 'we will of course take the necessary steps to ensure that Jens Haaning complies with his contract.'

They are currently in contact with Haaning, but have not reached an agreement as yet.

Haaning told Danish radio (as translated by the Guardian): "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."

Featured Image Credit: Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg

Topics: World News, Money, Art, Funny, Interesting, Denmark, Weird

Tom Wood
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