PHOTO: Museum Gave Artist $84K for Artwork, He Delivered Blank Canvases Called ‘Take the Money and Run’

blank canvas
Getty Images/AlexandrBognat

A Danish artist received $84,000 from a museum to use for a piece, but when he delivered the artwork it was not what had been promised, CBS News reported Thursday.

Artist Jens Haaning presented the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark, with two blank canvases and explained they were called “Take the Money and Run.”

The report continued:

Haaning was asked to recreate two of his previous works: 2010’s “An Average Danish Annual Income” and “An Average Austrian Annual Income,” first exhibited in 2007. Both used actual cash to show the average incomes of the two countries, according to a news release from the artist.

In addition to compensation for the work, Haaning was also give bank notes to use in the work, museum director Lasse Andersson told CBS News via email. Their contract even stated the museum would give Haaning an additional 6,000 euros to update the work, if needed, Andersson said. At the time the works were initially exhibited, the Danish piece highlighted the average income of 328,000 kroner, approximately $37,800, while the average Austrian salary illustrated was around €25,000, or $29,000.

The New York Post shared a photo of one of the canvases:

“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,” Andersson noted.

He said when they talked with the artist about creating the piece, he agreed to the contract, but when it was time for Haaning to present it, he did what no one expected.

“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,'” Andersson commented. “Subsequently, we could ascertain that the money had not been put into the work.”

The canvases meant to be full of cash remained empty.

According to a news release from Haaning, “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 in changing the title, Haaning “questions artists’ rights and their working conditions in order to establish more equitable norms within the art industry.”

Andersson explained it was not what they agreed on regarding the contract, but the museum acquired interesting art.

“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,” he added.

According to its website, the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art “is a living art museum allowing space for immersion, wonder and fascination.”

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