Take The Money And Run: Artist Dupes Museum Out Of $84,000

Photo: Getty Images

In the next Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a photo of Danish artist Jens Haaning should be placed directly next to the word, "finesse."

Months ago, the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark reached out to Haaning in hopes of having him create a piece of art for them. Specifically, the museum was hoping to have him recreate one of his most famous pieces that illustrates the wage gap between Danes and Austrians. To get the point across, Haaning frames actual currency. Given his previous work, the Kunsten Museum felt comfortable giving him $84,000 to get the job done.

Haaning accepted the offer, but his artistic mind led him in a new direction. After receiving $84,000, Haaning emailed the museum to let them know he had created a new piece of work called "Take The Money and Run" instead.

"The curator received an email in which Jens Haaning wrote that he had made a new piece of art work and changed the work title into 'Take the Money and Run,'" museum director Lasse Andersson told CBS News.

"Subsequently, we could ascertain that the money had not been put into the work."

Andersson and his colleagues were correct. Haaning sent the museum a few blank white canvases, which are now on display in Aalborg. As the Danish artist explained, "Take The Money and Run" highlights the lack of pay often offered to artists in Denmark.

"Everyone would like to have more money and, in our society, work industries are valued differently," Haaning wrote in his press release obtained by CBS News.

"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. It can be your marriage, your work - it can be any type of societal structure."

As Haaning has pointed out, he has not violated his contract. He was not required to recreate the piece that the museum had hoped he would, but he is legally obligated to return the $84,000 by January 16, 2022.

"When it comes to the amount of $84,000, he hasn't broke any contract yet as the initial contract says we will have the money back on January 16th 2022," Andersson explained.

"We will of course take the necessary steps to ensure that Jens Haaning complies with his contract."

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