The title of the artwork was a clue to the artist’s intentions – “Take the Money and Run”.
A Danish museum gave an artist around $ 83,000 to reproduce a pair of works displaying silver, reflecting the nature of work in the modern world.
Instead, artist Jens Haaning delivered two blank canvases without a piece of currency in sight, which are featured in the exhibition that opened last week at the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art. Mr Haaning concedes he hardly worked on the project after receiving a commission from the museum in the northern town of Aalborg, but says he keeps the money – in the name of art , sure.
“It’s only a work of art if I don’t return the money,” Mr. Haaning said in an interview. “I believe I created a good, relevant piece of art, which could be hung on the wall.”
The Kunsten Museum’s reaction has been mixed – at least publicly.
Artistic merits aside, Mr Haaning did not fulfill his initial order, museum director Lasse Andersson said in an interview. He said the artist received DKK 532,549 to reproduce two of his previous works, in which he framed stacks of kroon and euro banknotes to represent the annual wages earned by workers in Austria and Denmark.
Therefore, the museum expects Mr. Haaning – whose actual commission payment had been set at 10,000 crowns, less than $ 1,600, plus expenses – to return the money that was supposedly contained in the works of art after the exhibition closed in January, Mr. Andersson mentioned. Otherwise, he added, he is ready to take legal action.
But for now, the museum is playing the game. Mr Andersson said Mr Haaning’s move was in the mind of the commission, which was to spark thoughts on how and why people work for it. money.
“I’m interested in the job,” Andersson said. “Part of it is a humorous comment: why do we work, what is satisfying about being good at something? “
The episode, Mr Andersson said, echoed Robin Hood’s story: “The clever Jens Haaning cheats on the greatest museum director – it’s a story that’s also funny.
But some of his colleagues weren’t so enthusiastic, according to another artist in the exhibition, John Korner, who was at the museum when Mr Haaning’s work was delivered.
“The Conservatives were clearly disappointed,” he said. “I don’t know what they expected. In fact, they asked me what I thought about it, maybe because I was the only artist in the museum at the time.
Mr. Haaning’s latest creation did not surprise those familiar with his work.
“He’s the quintessential trickster,” said Merete Jankowski, art historian and former employer and collaborator of Mr. Haaning.
The stunt mirrored some of her previous performances, she said, which are often seen as provocations to upset “our notion of what is fair and equitable in our society, especially when it comes to marginalized communities.”
Ms. Jankowski highlighted a particularly political piece from 1995 called “Weapon Production”, in which the artist invited a group of young immigrants to the exhibition space to participate in a street gun-making workshop.
“It’s a way to create a work of art for a museum, which he has done several times before, and I think that has been overlooked,” she said, referring to her latest project. . “Try doing a Google search for Jens Haaning and see what he’s already done – how can that come as a surprise? “