Charlotte Foster


Artist turns in blank canvases after hefty payday

Artist turns in blank canvases after hefty payday

A daring art heist has been carried out in the most audacious way in a Danish museum. 

The Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in the Danish city of Aalborg offered artist Jens Haaning to recreate two of his most famous works titled An Average Danish Annual Income and An Average Austrian Annual Income.

The politically charged artworks used actual banknotes to reflect the average working wage for citizens of Denmark and Austria. 

The remakes were set to appear in a current exhibition titled Work it Out, which delves into the role of artists in the labour market. 

The institution lent Jens Haaning $117,000AUD to complete the recreations, and offered an extra $9,700 if needed. 

As per the contract the artist signed, the money would have to be returned to the museum at the end of the exhibition on January 16th 2022. 

Upon receiving a suspicious email from the artist, the museum curators suspected something was not quite right. 

The email told the museum that the title of the artwork had been changed, and was now called Take the Money and Run.  

Image credit: Getty Images

As the museum staff opened the box containing Mr Haaning’s ‘artworks’, they discovered two blank canvases while the cash had completely disappeared. 

“The money had not been put into the work,” museum director Lasse Andersson told CBS.

Despite the controversy, Mr Haaning defended his bold decision. 

“The work is that I have taken their money,” the artist told Danish radio program P1 Morgen of the performance piece and mega-minimalist work.

“It’s not theft. It is a breach of contract, and breach of contract is part of the work.”

Jens Haaning said he thought of the idea as a protest against the small sum he was offered to be included in the exclusive exhibition, as well as making a bold political statement on the status of artists in society. 

“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.”

Image credits: Getty Images

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