Art is one of those things that’s entirely subjective. A piece that evokes a strong emotional reaction and a feeling of deep significance for one person can be nothing more than a forgettable picture to someone else. However, how far can you really stretch the definition of art? As Danish artist Jens Haaning found out this week, there are indeed limits — and he now owes $70,000 to the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg because of it.
- The museum gave Haaning $84,000 to work on a piece back in 2021. However, instead of using that cash to create something amazing, he simply handed over two blank canvases, saying they were actually part of a collection he called “Take the Money and Run.” Very blatant — I’m impressed!
- Haaning was supposed to do something very specific with the cash. The Kunsten Museum wanted him to use the cash it handed over to update two of his previous works, which used real Danish notes to illustrate the incomes of everyday people in Denmark and Austria. After the exhibition was due to close in January 2022, the money would then come back to the museum.
- They got something very different from what they paid for. After the money was transferred to Haaning’s bank account, he pocketed the cash. Instead of using the notes to fill up two canvases, he turned them in blank, gave them a new title of “Take the Money and Run,” and did just that. And the Kunsten Museum actually accepted it.
- In the museum’s eyes, Haaning hadn’t done anything wrong just yet. While the cash wasn’t on the canvas, he still wasn’t due to hand it back until January 2022. However, when the time came, Haaning refused to give the cash back, per BBC News.
- The museum ended up suing Haaning. Initially, Lasse Andersson, the director of Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, was pretty amused by the whole thing. “Jens is known for his conceptual and activistic art with a humoristic touch. And he gave us that – but also a bit of a wake up call as everyone now wonders where did the money go,” he told CBS News in 2021. However, it soon became clear it wasn’t a joke.
- Now, Haaning will need to refund the museum. He’s been ordered to pay back $70,623, which isn’t quite as much as he was paid. Making a $14,000 profit on blank canvases isn’t so bad, eh?