Artist tempts museum to hand over $84,000 for a blank canvas

A Danish museum recently loaned an artist $84,000 to use in creating a new work of art. Rather than use the money to create what the museum expected, the artist provided blank canvases titled “Take the Money and Run.”

NPR reports that the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark, has given the money to noted Copenhagen conceptual artist Jens Haaning for recreations of two previous works.

“An Average Danish Annual Income” and “An Average Austrian Annual Income” were works by Haaning from more than ten years ago showing framed banknotes corresponding to the average annual income of Danes and Austrians respectively. Those frames included 328,000 kroner (~$37,800 at the time) and €25,000 (~$29,000 at the time) respectively.

Rather than use the money he received as banknotes for artwork, Haaning decided to keep the money and send blank canvases to the museum as a new artwork commenting on low wages.

The museum employees were surprised when they broke open the large crates that Haaning shipped and took out blank canvases.

“I had to laugh when I saw it,” says Lasse Andersson, CEO of Arts NPR. “It was not what we agreed in the contract, but we got new and interesting art.”

“It’s a breach of contract and breach of contract is part of the job,” Haaning told the Danish public broadcaster DR. “The job is I took their money.”

“Everyone would like to have more money and in our society, work industries are valued differently,” Haaning said in a statement. CBS News. “The artwork is essentially about the working conditions of artists. It is a statement that we also have a responsibility to question the structures we are part of.

“And if these structures are completely unreasonable, we have to break with them. It could be your marriage, your job – it could be any type of social structure.”

The museum is now demanding its money back, but has decided to display the new unexpected artwork anyway as part of its exhibition entitled “Work It Out”, which focuses on the future of work.


“I encourage other people who have just as miserable working conditions as I do to do the same,” Haaning told the DR radio show P1 tomorrow, translated by Artnet news. “If they’re on some shitty job and they’re not getting any money and actually being asked to give money to go to work, then take the box and [run] from.”

Haaning now has a contractual deadline of January 16, 2022, when the exhibit ends, to return the $84,000 to the museum. The artist says he has no intention of returning the money, but the museum is waiting to see what happens when the deadline passes before deciding on the action.


Image Credits: Header photo by the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art.

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