Take The Money & Run: Museum Gives Artist $84k, Gets Blank Canvases

Jens Haaning, a Danish artist, was commissioned by the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark to re-create two of his previous works:

"An Average Danish Annual Income"

"An Average Austrian Annual Income"

Each painting featured real money, with the intention of showing the average incomes (yearly salary) of the two countries. Haaning was given bank notes for both compensation and to be used in the artwork. They also contracted him to create version for the United States, featuring $84,000 US dollars. This money was only available for the purpose of the exhibition and once the exhibition closes in January 2022, the money was to be returned.

However, what Haaning delivered was not the three intended paintings. Instead, he had three crates delivered to the museum featuring this:

Blank canvases.

Haaning titled the artwork:

"Take the Money and Run"

The museum, therefore, determined that Haaning took the money. And ran.

The museum released the following statement:

"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. 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 know wonders were did the money go."

Haaning put out a press release as well, stating:

"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 questions artists' rights and their working conditions in order to establish more equitable norms within the art industry. 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. It is a statement saying that we also have the responsibility of questioning the structures that we are part of. And if these structures are completely unreasonable, we must break with them. It can be your marriage, your work - it can be any type of societal structure."

According to the museum, they have received "new and interesting art" and that Haaning hasn't technically broken any contract yet-- but he will have to return the money come January 2022.

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