Jens Haaning, Danish artist who submitted empty frames, told to return funding

The artist’s work titled Take the Money and Run sparked controversy

Jens Haaning, ‘Take the Money and Run’, 2021. Photo: Niels Fabæk. Courtesy Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg

Earlier this week, a court in Copenhagen ordered artist Jens Haaning to return nearly 500,000 kroner (£58,000) to the Kunsten Museum of Modern ARt in Aalborga in northern Denmark. The museum had given the money to the artist who had meant to embed the banknotes in two works of art. Instead, Haaning sent the museum two blank canvases and told DR, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, that ‘the work is that I have taken their money’. The artist explained: It’s not theft. It is breach of contract, and breach of contract is part of the work. I encourage other people who have working conditions as miserable as mine to do the same. If they’re sitting in some shitty 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.’

In ArtReview, Max Haiven entirely agreed with Haaning: ‘Haaning’s stunt begs deeper questions, and they go well beyond the cynical retort that perhaps he and the museum cooked up the scheme as a way to attract publicity or even pump up the value of the work (something the latter denies). It forces us to ask whether artists are indeed workers under capitalism and what the political consequences might be either way.’

The museum asked for Haaning to return all the money it had given the artist, around 534,000 kroner, which he refused. The court ordered he pay the museum 492,549 kroner, representing the sum of money earmarked for the work minus an artist’s fee.

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