Protesting artist runs off with Danish museum’s money, will they Work It Out?

Danish artist Jens Haaning has unexpectedly delivered several empty frames to an exhibition as a protest against low pay and modern-day capitalism. He brazenly titled the work ‘Take the Money and Run’.

In the run up to their new exhibition about working life, curators at the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg were expecting Haaning, 56, to recreate two earlier works. One piece called ‘An Average Danish Annual Income’, produced in 2011, used bank notes to represent average incomes, and another piece was called ‘An Average Austrian Annual Income’. But instead Haaning got one up on the museum.

There were empty frames,” recalled Lasse Andersson, the director of the Kunsten Museum “Haaning sent us an email saying he thought it was more interesting to do a new work.”

Haaning signed a contract with the Kunsten museum, which agreed to loan him 538,000 Danish kroner (£62,600) from its limited reserves for the two pieces. According to the conceptual artist, he would have had to pay another 25,000 kroner (£2,900) himself to complete the commission.

I encourage other people who have working conditions as miserable as mine to do the same,” explained Haaning. “If they are sitting on some s*** job and not getting money and are actually being asked to give money to go to work, then take the box and [run] off.”

The Kunsten museum has now hung both empty frames in the exhibition space designated for Haaning’s contracted work. When the exhibition ends in January 2022, the money must be paid back to the museum as stipulated by the legal contract. “We are not a rich museum,” claimed Andersson. “We are really hoping the money will come back.”

Haaning, however, is still refusing to return any of the cash. “Of course I will not pay it back,” he said. “The work is that I took the money and I will not give it back.”

The Kunsten museum’s exhibition, ‘Work it Out’, closes on 16th January 2022.

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