A Danish artist has kept the money he was given by a museum to create a piece of artwork and submitted two blank canvases. He has also altered the name of his installation to “Take the Money and Run” as a mark of protest against low wages.
The Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg gave Jens Hanning roughly 534,000 kroner ($84,000) in cash to recreate two of his earlier artworks. The pieces had bank notes attached to a canvas and represented the average annual wage in Austria and Denmark. The museum also paid Hanning 25,000 kroner ($3,900) for the artwork, scheduled to be exhibited at “Work It Out”, the museum’s exhibition on money and labour conditions, which opened on 24 September.
But the canvases were blank when museum officials received them. Instead of bank notes stuck to the canvases between glass frames, they found empty canvases and no sign of the money.
Hanning claims that the work of art is that he “took their money”. Calling it a statement on his current work situation, the artist said that what he did could not be considered theft, but rather a “breach of contract, and the breach of contract is part of the work”.
According to the contract he had signed with the museum, Hanning was required to give back the money after the exhibition was over.
He declined to reveal where the money was to the P1 channel, a part of Danish broadcaster DR. He also refused to pay back the amount.
Hanning believes that the blank canvases symbolise his present working conditions and a commentary against the poor remuneration offered by the museum. He also encouraged people to “take the money and run” if they are being forced to give money “to go to work”.
The museum wants Hanning to return the money and plans to report him to the police if the money is not returned by January, when the exhibition ends.