2021-10-01 18:49:47 Jenns Hanning Delivered Two Blank Canvases to a Danish Museum

Jenns Hanning Delivered Two Blank Canvases to a Danish Museum

The artwork’s title — “Take the Money and Run” — hinted at the artist’s intentions.

A Danish museum paid an artist $83,000 to reproduce a pair of works depicting cash, reflecting the nature of work in the modern world.

Instead, the artist, Jens Haaning, delivered two blank canvases with no money in sight, which are on display at the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, which opened last week. Mr. Haaning admits that after receiving a commission from the museum in the northern city of Aalborg, he did almost no actual work on the project, but he says he’s keeping the money — all in the name of art, of course.

“If I don’t return the money, this is just a piece of art,” Mr. Haaning explained in an interview. “I believe I have produced a good and relevant piece of artwork that could be hung on a wall.”

The Kunsten Museum’s reaction has been mixed, at least publicly.

Aside from his artistic merits, Mr. Haaning did not complete his original commission, according to the museum’s director, Lasse Andersson, in an interview. According to him, the artist was paid 532,549 Danish kroner to reproduce two of his previous works, in which he framed piles of kroner and euro bills to represent annual wages earned by workers in Austria and Denmark.

As a result, Mr. Haaning, whose actual commission payment was set at 10,000 kroner (less than $1,600) plus expenses, is expected to return the money that was supposed to be contained in the artworks after the exhibit closes in January, according to Mr. Andersson. Otherwise, he is prepared to take legal action, he added.

But, for the time being, the museum is complying. Mr. Andersson stated that Mr. Haaning’s stunt was in keeping with the commission’s goal of provoking thought about how and why people work for money.

“The work interests me,” Mr. Andersson stated. “It’s partly a witty remark: why do we work, and what’s so satisfying about being good at something?”

Mr. Andersson compared the episode to the story of Robin Hood: “The smart Jens Haaning cheats the bigger museum director — it’s a funny story.”

According to another artist in the exhibition, John Korner, who was at the museum when Mr. Haaning’s work was delivered, some of his colleagues were not as enthusiastic.

“Clearly, the curators were disappointed,” he said. “I’m not sure what they were expecting. They actually asked me what I thought, possibly because I was the only artist at the time.”

Those familiar with Mr. Haaning’s work were unsurprised by his latest creation.

“He is the ultimate trickster,” said Merete Jankowski, an art historian and Mr. Haaning’s former employer and collaborator.

According to her, the stunt mirrored some of his previous performances, which are often meant to upset “our notion of what is fair and just in our society, especially when it comes to marginalized communities.”

Ms. Jankowski cited a particularly political piece from 1995, “Weapon Production,” in which the artist invited a group of young immigrants to the exhibition space to take part in a workshop for making street weapons.

“It is a way for him to create an artwork for a museum, which he has done many times before, and I think that has been overlooked,” she said of his most recent project. “Do a Google search for Jens Haaning and see what he has done in the past — how can this be a surprise?”

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Jenns Hanning Delivered Two Blank Canvases to a Danish Museum