58-year-old Danish artist Jens Haaning has been ordered by a Danish court to repay the Kunsten Museum after he delivered blank canvasses to them in 2021.
Haaning, who is known for his artwork that takes aim at income inequality, migration and working conditions, was hired by the Kunsten Museum to recreate one of his most famous pieces from 2007. The artwork that the museum was expecting was supposed to be a canvas lined with krone banknotes to represent different household incomes in Denmark.
When the museum received the artwork in 2021, they were surprised to find two large blank canvases, titled “Take the Money and Run.”
The Kunsten Museum later displayed the blank canvasses but asked Haaning to return the money as he had broken their contract.
When he refused, the museum took him to court. The ruling has now come down, and Haaning must repay the museum the €67,000 grant money. However, he is able to keep the workers fee that amounted to about €3,500.
In an earlier interview with a Danish radio station, Haaning stated that the stunt was a statement on working conditions and how he believes that workers should do similar things if their situations are as terrible as his own.
“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.”
Past statement pieces
Haaning’s statement piece is part of a long list of artists who have highlighted the often absurd hypocrisy and elitism in the art world.
One of the more memorable instances of this kind of self-reflection came in 2018 when Banksy’s “Girl With Balloon” went for sale at Sotheby’s for €1.28 million.
After it was sold, the piece slowly slid from the frame and was shredded into strips by a device installed in the frame itself by Banksy.
Despite the ‘ruined’ artwork, it went on to be sold for the original asking price.