Danish artist Jens Haaning recently received a loan of around $ 84,000 to recreate two of his earlier works. However, Haaning decided to use the money to create a new piece of art by keeping the money to himself. He gave the piece the appropriate title: Take the money and run.
These types of controversies, far from being new in the art world, can shed light on the sometimes tenuous relations between artists and the institutions that often finance them.
This particular incident comes after the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark loaned Haaning 538,000 crowns (approximately $ 84,000) to reproduce two of his earlier works, from 2007 and 2010, respectively. The first was intended to display, in a frame, the average annual income in Austria for that year, the second was its Danish equivalent.
According to The arts journal, the new interpretations of the works of art were to be presented in an exhibition entitled “Work it Out”, a collection focusing on issues related to work and professional life.
However, when Haaning’s works were delivered the day before the exhibition opened on September 24, museum staff found only empty frames and no sign of the money they loaned Haaning. .
“Haaning sent us an email saying he thought it was more interesting to do a new job, and his name was Take the money and run“, explained the director of the Kunsten Museum, Lasse Andersson, by The arts journal.
From Haaning’s point of view, Take the money and run is a conceptual work of art that responds to the unfair conditions set by the museum: the artist claims that he would have had to pay 25,000 crowns (approximately $ 3,900) of his own money to fully realize the two works, a reported Artnet.
Additionally, Haaning explained that works of art, originally made several years ago, were no longer relevant in today’s context. “Why should we show a work about Denmark 11 years ago, or Austria’s relationship with a bank 14 years ago?” The artist asked on a radio show last week.
“I encourage others who have such miserable working conditions as I do to do the same,” he said. “If they sit on a shitty job and don’t get money and are actually asked to give money to go to work, then take the box and [run] disabled. “
For now, the museum has displayed the empty frames in its “Work it Out” exhibit, along with a copy of Haaning’s email, but they still hope to get their money back, as stipulated in their written contract with Haaning.
“We are not a rich museum,” Andersson said, reported The arts journal. “We really hope the money will come back.”
The money loaned to Haaning would come from savings intended for the maintenance of the museum.
“I absolutely want to give Jens the right [to say] that a new work has been created in its own right, which actually comments on the exposure we have, “added Andersson, per Artnet.” But that’s not the deal we had. “
Haaning, however, appears to have other plans. “Of course, I will not reimburse it,” he said, according to The arts journal. “The job is, I took the money and I won’t return it.”
He further defended the work, according to Euronews, explaining that the conceptual artwork is “not theft.” He said: “It’s a breach of contract, and a breach of contract is part of the job.”
News week contacted the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art for further comment.
The controversy is reminiscent of similar incidents that have rocked the art world in recent years. In 2018, for example, a Banksy piece of art self-destructed moments after being auctioned off for $ 1.4 million. The following year, a banana stuck to a wall by artist Maurizio Cattelan at Art Basel Miami sold for $ 120,000 and gained worldwide notoriety, until it was eaten by fellow artist David Datuna. .