Danish Artist Who Submitted Blank Frames As Artwork Told To Repay $75,000 To Museum

The museum had paid around 534,000 kroner ( $76,539) to Mr Hanning as well as an artist’s fee of about 40,000 kroner.

A Danish artist has been ordered to return nearly 500,000 kroner (around $75,000) to a museum after he submitted two blank canvasses as his artwork. According to The BBC, the artist, identified as Jens Haaning, was commissioned in 2021 by the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Denmark to recreate two earlier works that used scores of banknotes to represent average incomes. The museum provided him with funds from its reserves to recreate his artworks as well as an artist’s fee. However, when the staff unpacked the newly delivered works, they found two empty frames with the title ‘Take the Money and Run’. 

According to The BBC, the art project was intended as a statement on salaries in Denmark and Austria. The museum had paid around 534,000 kroner ( $76,539) to Mr Hanning as well as an artist’s fee of about 40,000 kroner. But after receiving two blank canvasses, the museum asked Mr Haaning to return all the money, but he refused. Following this, the Kunsten Museum then took him to the court. 

At the time, Museum director Lasse Andersson said that his museum was “not wealthy” and that Mr Haaning’s actions left the museum’s curators deeply upset. “We are not a wealthy museum. … We have to think carefully about how we spend our funds, and we don’t spend more than we can afford,” Mr Andersson told The Guardian. 

Mr Haaning, on the other hand, told Danish radio at the time that “the work is that I have taken their money. It’s not theft. It is breach of contract, and breach of contract is part of the work.”

“I encourage other people who have working conditions as miserable as mine to do the same. If they’re sitting in some shitty job and not getting paid, and are actually being asked to pay money to go to work, then grab what you can and beat it,” he added. 

Now, after a long legal battle, a Copenhagen court on Monday ordered the 58-year-old artist to pay back the sum to the museum that commissioned the artworks – but keep some expenses. The court ordered Mr Haaning to refund the museum 492,549 kroner. This figure, the court said, was equivalent to the sum the museum had given minus the artist’s fee and the mounting cost. 

After the judgment, Mr Haaning said that he did not plan to take the case any further. He also claimed that the museum had made “much, much more” money than what it invested thanks to the publicity surrounding the affair.

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