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Artist who was paid $84,000 for artwork delivers blank canvases

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A Danish artist who was paid $84,000 by a museum delivered two blank canvases and named the artwork ‘Take the Money and Run,’ CBS News reported on Tuesday.

Artist Jens Haaning was commissioned to create some artwork for the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark.

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The museum asked him to recreate two of his previous works: ‘An Average Danish Annual Income’ 2010 and ‘An Average Austrian Annual Income’ 2007, both of which used actual bank noted to show average incomes from both countries, a statement released by the artist said.

In addition to being paid $84,000 to recreate the artwork, he was also given cash to include in his work, museum director Lasse Andersson told CBS News.

The contract between the artist and the museum stipulated that Haaning would be given an additional 6,000 euros to update the work if needed.

Haaning’s previous works highlighted that the average Danish annual incomes was around $37,800 (328,000 kroner) and the Austrian piece illustrated a salary of around $29,000 (25,000 euros).

“We also have a contract that the money $84,000 US dollars to be displayed in the work is not Jens’ and that it must be paid back when the exhibition closes on 16 January 2022,” Andersson said.

“The exhibition is called ‘Work it Out’ and features works of art by many different contemporary artists,” he said.

The exhibition runs from September 24 this year to January 16, 2022.

“The curator received an email in which Jens Haaning wrote that he had made a new piece of art work and changed the work title into ‘Take the Money and Run,’ Andersson said.

“Subsequently, we could ascertain that the money had not been put into the work.”

The frames that needed to be filled with cash were empty, CBS reported.

“The staff was very surprised when they opened the crates. I was abroad when the crates were opened, but suddenly received a lot of mails,” said Andersson.

“Jens is known for his conceptual and activistic art with a humoristic touch. And he gave us that – but also a bit of a wakeup call as everyone know wonders where did the money go,” he said.

However, according to Haaning’s statement, “the idea behind [it] was to show how salaries can be used to measure the value of work and to show national differences with the European Union.”

“Everyone would like to have more money and, in our society, work industries are valued differently,” Haaning said in a statement.

“The artwork is essentially about the working conditions of artists. It is a statement saying that we also have the responsibility of questioning the structures that we are part of. And if these structures are completely unreasonable, we must break with them. It can be your marriage, your work - it can be any type of societal structure.”

However, Andersson said that Haaning technically did not break the contract and they had gotten new and interesting art due to this.
“When it comes to the amount of $84,000, he hasn’t broke any contract yet as the initial contract says we will have the money back on January 16th, 2022.”

The museum has said that they are giving Haaning until January 16, 2021, to return the money, otherwise they will “take the necessary steps” to ensure that he complies with the terms of their contract.

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