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Jens Haaning, Take the Money And Run, 2021. Photo: Kunsten Museum of Modern Art.
Jens Haaning, Take the Money And Run, 2021. Photo: Kunsten Museum of Modern Art.

Danish Artist, Protesting “Miserable Working Conditions,” Hands In Blank Canvases for $84K

A Danish artist given $84,000 by a museum to produce two works has kept the money in protest of the low fees offered him by the commissioning institution, and has in exchange provided it with two blank canvases. The Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark, loaned Jens Haaning the abovementioned sum to re-create two of his earlier works for an exhibition titled “Work It Out,” themed around people’s relationship to labor. Dating to 2007 and 2010, respectively, the works illustrated via sheaves of Danish currency contained within a larger frame and Austrian currency occupying a smaller one the respective average annual incomes of the two named countries.

Haaning, who said the cost of remaking the works exceeded the amount supplied by the institution by nearly $4,000, declared the blank canvases to comprise a new work of art, titled Take the Money and Run. “The work is that I have taken their money,” he told Danish public radio show PI Morgen, noting that “breach of contract is part of the work.” Kunsten CEO Lasse Andersson told NPR that the artist had been given roughly $7,000 to cover the cost of the work’s making and thus should not have had to go out of pocket to complete it.

Hanning, for his part, urged those in straits similar to his own to follow in his footsteps. “I encourage other people who have just as miserable working conditions as me to do the same if they are sitting on some shit job and not getting money and are actually being asked to give money to go to work,” he said, according to a translation published in Artnet News.

The museum has placed the blank canvases, appropriately titled, on display, where they have garnered a tremendous amount of attention. Andersson says the Kunsten Museum will seek repayment of the loan made to Hanning after the exhibition closes, on January 16, but seemed to acknowledged that the institution has in some sense gotten its money’s worth, wryly noting, “I actually laughed as I saw it.”