The Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg in Denmark wanted to work with a contemporary artist to create a ground-breaking piece to display in their gallery. The institution worked with the 56-year-old artist, Jens Haaning, who lives in Copenhagen. The piece of art was supposed to incorporate banknotes, so the museum lent Haaning the money so he could complete the piece of art, but he ended up providing a blank canvas entitled “Take the Money and Run” along with a note about how he was going to keep the cash for himself.
The modern art museum had wanted Haaning to create an art installation using the currency. They commissioned him to do it but received a blank canvas instead of a completed piece of art. Museum staff had no idea Haaning was going to trick them until the large blank canvas was unveiled for the first time. Museum workers were absolutely stunned that they were staring at a blank white canvas devoid of anything.
After he unveiled the piece, Haaning made it very clear that he was taking the money for himself rather than using it for the art installation. He even entitled the piece “Take the Money and Run.” However, the museum is not pleased with Haaning’s artistic prank and may be forced to take legal action against him.
“It’s not theft. It is a breach of contract, and breach of contract is part of the work,” the artist said. “The work is that I have taken their money.”
Haaning, born in 1965, gained notoriety for his art in the 1990s when he focused his work on exposing the differences between specific social groups and the power structures that kept them in place.
Meanwhile, the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art feels that they were duped because they lent the artist nearly $80,000 so he could arrange the banknotes on two picture frames. The museum wanted the work to represent the average salaries earned by people in Denmark and Austria for their “Work It Out” exhibit.
Haaning’s work is one among twenty artists who will be showing their art from September 28, 2021, to January 16, 2022. When the museum was ready to show off Haaning’s work, he sent an email explaining that he had taken the money and would not pay it back.
“The curator received an email in which Jens Haaning wrote that he had made the work and the working title into ‘Take the Money and Run,’” a museum spokesperson told EuroNews. “Subsequently, we could ascertain that the money had not been put into the work.”
One reason Haaning took the money was that the museum didn’t pay him enough to complete the commission. He would have had to shell out several thousand dollars of his own money to complete the requested job.
“[Returning the money] is not going to happen. The work is that I have taken their money,” he told Danish broadcaster DR. “I encourage other people who have working conditions as miserable as mine to do the same. If they’re sitting in some sh***y 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.”
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