Court Orders Danish Artist to Repay $71,000 USD for Sending Blank Canvases to Museum


A Copenhagen court has ruled that Danish conceptual artist Jens Haaning must pay back the roughly 492,549 kroner / $71,000 USD loaned to him by the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg to recreate an earlier sculpture from 2007, minus the artist fees and installation costs.

The two artworks initially requested, An Average Danish Annual Income, featured krone banknotes affixed to several canvases as a commentary on the wealth disparity in the European Union. Instead, Haaning delivered two blank canvases and cheekily titled it Take the Money and Run. Oddly enough, the institution chose to display the works, partly because it inadvertently possessed the level of shock value that Haaning is known for, and secondly, Kunsten trusted that the artist would fulfill his end of the agreement by returning the funds borrowed.

Haaning hasn’t and he now finds himself in a bit of a jam. “It has been good for my work, but it also puts me in an unmanageable situation where I don’t really know what to do,” said the artist a statement after the court ruling. In a 2021 interview with the Guardian, Kunsten museum director Lasse Andersson reiterated: “We are not a wealthy museum,” and they have to “think carefully about how we spend our funds, and we don’t spend more than we can afford.”

The artist has a four-week period to appeal the court’s ruling.

Original Story: Aalborg’s Kunsten Museum of Modern Art recently unveiled a new exhibition centered around the theme of future labor. As part of their commissioned work, the institution loaned the equivalent of $84,000 USD in euros to Danish conceptual artist, Jens Haaning, to create two canvas artworks displaying the money in a large display. In an extraordinary turn of events, Haaning returned the canvases blank and titled them, Take the Money and Run.

The artist described the work as a commentary on poor wages and not theft. Naturally, the institution thought otherwise, noting that Haanning’s actions were a clear breach of contract. In response, the conceptual artist said the breach itself is intrinsic to his overarching message, adding, “the work is that I have taken their money.”

The commission was supposed to reference one of the artist’s earlier pieces, Average Danish Annual Income, which displayed a multitude of Danish krone back in 2007 commenting on the wealth disparity in Denmark. Haaning was uninterested in replicating his previous art and is more interested in the living conditions of the present. In an interview translated by Artnet News, Hanning encouraged “other people who have just as miserable working conditions as me to do the same.”

Kunsten has not filed charges as of yet and trust that Haaning will deliever the $84,000 agreed upon in his contract. Surprisingly, the museum has displayed the two blank canvases, admitting that they achieved the shock factor that was initially intended. Nonetheless, Haaning has until January 16 to fulfill his end of the agreement.

Also in the news, Moncler teamed up with Artsy on an auction benefitting charity.

Kunsten Museum of Contemporary Art
Kong Christians Alle 50,
9000 Aalborg, Denmark
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