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Danish artist ordered to repay museum after submitting blank canvases: ‘Take the money and run’

A Danish artist has been ordered to repay a museum after running off with its money upon being commissioned to create a piece of artwork but instead submitted two empty canvases titled “Take the Money and Run.”

In 2021, Jens Haaning was given the equivalent of nearly $84,000 in Danish kroner and euro banknotes by the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg.

He has now been ordered to repay around $70,600 and another $11,000 in court fees. 

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Take the money and run

People stand in front of an empty frame hung up at the Kunsten Museum in Aalborg, Denmark, on Sept. 28, 2021. (Getty Images)

“I am shocked, but at the same time it is exactly what I have imagined,” Haaning told Danish public broadcaster DR on Monday.

For its exhibition on labor conditions and money, entitled “Work It Out,” the museum commissioned Haaning to recreate two of his earlier pieces, which featured banknotes attached to a canvas representing the average annual wage in Denmark and Austria. As well as lending him the notes, the museum also paid him $3,900 for the work.

When the museum received the completed artworks, they were blank

Danish artist creates nothing

A woman stands in front of an empty frame hung up at the Kunsten Museum in Aalborg, Denmark. The artist, Jens Haaning, has been ordered to repay the museum for taking its money not creating any artwork and instead submitting blank canvases titled: “Take the Money and Run.” (Getty Images)

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“The artwork is that I have taken the money,” Haaning told DR at the time. “I encourage others who have just as miserable working conditions as I to do the same. If they are being asked to give money to go to work, then take the money and run.”

The museum said Haaning broke an agreement on how to use the money. The artist disputed the allegations.

“It’s not theft, it is a breach of contract, and the breach of contract is part of the work,” he said at the time. 

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