When an exhibition on the future of work opened at a Danish art museum on Friday, visitors should have seen two large marks filled with banknotes worth $ 84,000 in total.
The pieces were intended to be reproductions of two works by artist Jens Haaning, who previously used framed money to represent the average annual salaries of an Austrian and a Dane, in euros and Danish crowns, respectively.
But when the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg received the recreated works of art prior to the exhibition, the gallery staff made a surprising discovery: the frames were empty. Rather than being the work of thieves, the borrowed money was lost thanks to Haaning himself, who says he keeps the money, in the name of art.
“I have chosen to do a new work for the exhibition, rather than show the two works of 14 and 11 years respectively,” Haaning told the museum in an email, the text of which is now displayed next to the empty frames. .
“The work is based on / responds both to its concept of exhibition and to the works that we had originally planned to show.”
The new works, collectively titled “Take the Money and Run”, are displayed at the Kunsten Art Museum in Aalborg, Denmark. Credit: Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, Aalborg
The “new” concept piece, which Haaning has titled “Take the Money and Run,” is now at the center of a dispute between the museum and the artist over the work, the contractual obligations and the value of the work, all appropriate topics. for the exhibition.
“I saw, from my artistic point of view, that I could create a much better piece for them than they could imagine,” Haaning told CNN by phone, adding: “I don’t see that I have stolen money … I have created a work of art, which is maybe 10 or 100 times better than we had planned. What’s the problem? “
In addition to lending Haaning 534,000 Danish crowns ($ 84,000) for the cash-filled artworks, the Kunsten Museum had agreed to pay another 10,000 crowns ($ 1,571) for his work, in addition to covering costs like framing and delivery. But the artist said the project would still have put him out of pocket, due to studio costs and staff salaries.
“I am usually in a better position when I appear abroad,” he said. “I am Danish and it is (a) Danish museum and they expect me to invest because maybe one day they will buy something.”
The new works were to be updated versions of works of art from 2007 and 2010. In the photo: “Average annual income for Austria, 2007.” Credit: Jens Ziehe / Courtesy of Sabsay Gallery
Kunsten director Lasse Andersson said the museum has honored its part of the agreement. “It is very important to us because we have always been known to honor contracts and also to pay artists a reasonable fee,” he said by phone.
Haaning said he has no plans to return the money and is “not concerned” about the possible consequences. Andersson said the artist has until January, when the exhibition ends, to repay the loan, after which the museum will consider legal action.
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Discussing the value of work is, after all, what Haaning intended. “I think behind the article is a much more general statement: that (you) should look at the structures in which you participate and reflect on them,” he said, listing religion and marriage between them. “And if you have to, you know, take the money and run.”
Andersson has his own interpretation of the empty frames, which he sees in the context of his museum exhibit, “Work it Out.”
“Do we have to work for money or can we just accept it?” Andersson asked. “Why are we going to work? All these kinds of things make us start to reflect on the cultural habits of the society we are a part of. And then it also applies to the question: Are artists paid enough for what they do?”
The Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark, opened the exhibition “Work It Out” on September 24. Credit: Alamy
Still, the museum director would like cash back.
“It’s not my money, it’s public money, it’s museum money,” he said. “So that’s why (by January) we need to make sure it comes back to us.”
Featured Image: A visitor to the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art inspects Jens Haaning’s “Take the Money and Run, 2021”