Danish artist Jens Haaning was lent 534,000 Danish krone ($84,000) by the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark to replicate two of his older works – framed banknotes that represented the annual incomes of an Austrian and a Dane. However, instead of making the artworks, the artist shipped two empty frames to the museum. The cash was nowhere to be found.
“The work is that I have taken their money,” the artist told the Danish radio programme P1 Morgen last week. “It’s not theft. It is a breach of contract, and breach of contract is part of the work.”
According to Haaning’s press release, “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” Haaning “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,” Haaning said in a statement. “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”.
Museum director Lasse Andersson said while it wasn’t what they had agreed on in the contract, the museum got new and 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.”