The Work it Out exhibition by Danish artist Jens Haaning, focused on the relationship between art and working life, turned into Take the Money and Run when the artist refused to pay over €70,000 back to the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark, in protest at what he called “miserable” working conditions and low pay.
A little bit in the wake of exhibitions like those of Banksy or Salvatore Garau, Haaning sent two empty frames instead of two picture frames containing the cash, which would visualise the average annual income of a person in Denmark and Austria. “The curator received an email in which Jens Haaning wrote that he had made the work and the work title into ‘Take the Money and Run’,” a museum spokesperson said. “Subsequently, we could ascertain that the money had not been put into the work.”
A spokesperson for Kunsten told Euronews Next that the museum expected to be repaid early next year, when the exhibition will end on 16 January 2022. But Haaning told he did not intend to return the museum’s money, since “the work is that I have taken their money.” The artist told DR that his new work was inspired by the pay Kunsten offered him for the exhibition. According to Haaning, he would have had to pay roughly €3,300 out of his own pocket to recreate the two artworks.
“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 said.