19 Sep 2023

Danish artist ordered to repay museum after turning in blank canvasses

1:48 pm on 19 September 2023
A woman stands in front of an empty frame from Danish artist Jens Haaning in the Kunsten Museum in Aalborg, Denmark.

A woman studies the blank work by Jens Haaning in the Kunsten Museum in Denmark. Photo: HENNING BAGGER

A Danish artist has been ordered to return nearly 500,000 kroner ($NZ119,300) to a museum, after he supplied it with two blank canvasses for a project he named "Take the Money and Run".

The Kunsten Museum in Aalborg had intended for Jens Haaning to embed the banknotes in two pieces of art in 2021.

Instead, he gave it blank canvasses and then told the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (dr.dk): "The work is that I have taken their money".

A court has now ordered him to return the cash - but keep some for expenses.

The art project was intended as a statement on salaries in Denmark and Austria.

The museum asked for the artist to return all the money, around 534,000 kroner ($NZ129,367) - but Haaning refused.

Now, after a long legal battle, a Copenhagen court on Monday ordered Haaning, 58, to refund the museum 492,549 kroner ($NZ119,320).

The 'Brodno' sculpture by Jens Haaning is seen in the Brodno Sculpture Park in Warsaw, Poland on 04 November, 2022. Photo by STR/NurPhoto) (Photo by NurPhoto / NurPhoto via AFP)

A work by Jens Haaning in a sculpture park in Warsaw, Poland. Photo: STR

That figure, it said, was equivalent to the sum the museum had given him, minus the artist's fee and the mounting cost.

Museum director Lasse Andersson said that he had laughed out loud when he first saw the two blank canvasses in 2021, and decided to show the works anyway.

"He stirred up my curatorial staff and he also stirred me up a bit, but I also had a laugh because it was really humoristic," the museum's director, Lasse Andersson, told the BBC's Newsday programme in 2021.

After the judgement, Haaning told dr.dk that he did not plan taking the case any further.

"It has been good for my work, but it also puts me in an unmanageable situation where I don't really know what to do."

He told TV2 Nord on Monday the museum had made "much, much more" money than what it invested thanks to the publicity surrounding the affair.

- This story was originally published by the BBC

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