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Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg
Kong Christians Allé 50
9000 Aalborg
Denmark

Phone: +45 99 82 41 00
kunsten@kunsten.dk
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Take the Money and Run – Clarification of Concepts and FAQ

Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg has captured the attention the world because of Take the Money and Run, a work by the artist, Jens Haaning.

 

The attention has also shed light on the lack of knowledge about how Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg – and art museums in general – work on exhibitions and pay artists.

 

Accordingly, we have written this brief review of the case and common concepts, and answered some frequently asked questions in the context of Take the Money and Run.

 

Case explained

Kunsten’s plan was to feature two existing works by Jens Haaning – An Average Austrian Annual Income (2007) and An Average Danish Annual Income (originally exhibited at HEART in Herning in 2010) – in Work it Out, an exhibition about working life in the future. However, for the new exhibition, the annual incomes were updated to 2021 figures. The works consisted of framed banknotes with a total value of DKK 532,549. Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg made the money available to the artist, transferring it his personal bank account. Kunsten and Jens Haaning signed a contract, in which Haaning pledged to return the money to Kunsten custody when the exhibition closed on 16 January 2022. Immediately before the exhibition opened, Haaning emailed Kunsten’s staff, informing them that, instead of what had been agreed, he had made a new work entitled Take the Money and Run. The staff then opened the transport boxes to discover that the picture frames, which should have contained the banknotes, were empty.


The new work was exhibited in Work it Out alongside other works by renowned contemporary artists.

 

After the exhibition was over, Jens Haaning did not pay back the money as agreed in the contract. That is why Kunsten has filed a civil lawsuit.

 

See a description of the artworks here.

 

The work itself – excluding the money – belongs to Jens Haaning, who is represented by Sabsay Gallery Copenhagen. The work is not owned by Kunsten, but is a deposit.

 

Collection, lending and deposits
When Danish museums exhibit works of art, the works can either come from their own collection or from deposits. In the case of deposits, the museum does not own the work. When the exhibition closes, the artwork is returned to its owners.

 

The museum’s own collection is owned by the museum – and thus by all of us, given that Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg is a public institution. The museum has an annual budget for acquiring works of art to add to the collection, but generally the collection evolves thanks to financial support from foundations for the acquisition of a specific work.

 

Deposits: When the museum does not exhibit works from its own collection, it borrows existing works from private collectors, other museums, galleries and/or artists. As in the case of Take the Money and Run, when museums borrow an artist’s work, the state pays an exhibition fee to the artist. In addition, the museum covers all expenses: for example, for transport and preparation of the work. In some cases, Kunsten also incurs expenses for the further development of an existing work by the artist for a specific exhibition.


Haaning’s work is a deposit. This means that Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg will return the work at the end of the exhibition, but without the banknotes, which, as agreed in a contract, Kunsten would only make available to the artist for the duration of the exhibition. Haaning will receive a fee of DKK 10,000 from Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg and approximately DKK 30,000 in viewing fees from the state as ‘rent’. Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg is also covering all expenses for transport and the updating of the work, together with expenses for any communication, in which the artist’s work is featured, to promote the exhibition (though, as a rule, no more than EUR 6,000).

 

Exhibition fees are stipulated by law (Act on Visual Arts and Artistic Design § 6) and must be paid to the artist no later than 14 days after the last day of the exhibition’s run. The size of the exhibition fee is determined on the basis of the work’s value, exhibition venue and duration etc.
 
Fees 
are negotiated between the artist and the museum. Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg has voluntarily entered into an agreement with: the Organisation of Danish Museums; the Association of Visual Artists; the Danish Visual Artists’ Trade Union; and UKK – Organisation for Artists, Curators and Art Mediators. The agreement guarantees artists, who exhibit and/or lend their works to Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg, a minimum fee for the work that involvement in the exhibition in question requires.

 

About Jens Haaning

Jens Haaning (b. 1965) is a conceptual artist. That means he is more preoccupied with the concept than with the concrete work. In practice, he challenges existing structures, exposing their inherent power relations. His works generate new ideas about Western culture and its current mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion: for example, in relation to migration, nationalism, language and power. His works feature a distinct political commitment that kindles discussion. Haaning is a key figure in both the Danish and international contemporary art worlds.


A graduate of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Jens Haaning has had a wide-ranging artistic career, including solo exhibitions at the likes of Wiener Secession (Vienna), San Francisco Art Institute, (San Francisco), and Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Faurschou Foundation, and Den Frie (Copenhagen). His work has also featured in group exhibitions all over the world: for example, at Documenta XI (Kassel), the Istanbul Biennale (Istanbul), MoMa PS1 (New York), and at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Kunstforeningen Gl Strand, and Kunsthal Aarhus etc. (Denmark). His works are represented in collections such as SMK, ARoS, the Museum of Contemporary Art, KØS and the National Museum in Oslo. In 2007 he received the Eckersberg Medal, and in 2020 the Carl Nielsen and Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen Scholarship honorary award.

 

FAQ

The whole world is talking about Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg. Is this a carefully planned PR stunt?

No, it certainly isn’t. We were surprised when we saw the empty picture frames.


The work was previously exhibited at the Socle du Monde exhibition at HEART in Herning in 2010. Here, the money was made available by Nordea and HEART – and paid back at the end of exhibition. We know, and have collaborated previously with Jens Haaning. In 2017, we acquired his 1994 work, Turkish Jokes for the collection. Jens Haaning is an established, highly acclaimed contemporary artist.

 

Do you understand why some people are angry that the money is gone?

The money isn’t gone. Jens Haaning has it, and we have a contract with him, stipulating that he was supposed to return it to Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg when the exhibition closed on 16 January 2022. We take extremely seriously the fact that funding comes from private foundations. That’s why we always pay great attention to contractual conditions. It is because we are abiding by the contract that we are taking the necessary steps vis-à-vis a civil lawsuit.

 

Did all the publicity lead to more visitors?
The museum received many visitors following the opening of the exhibition, in which Haaning’s work was featured. That’s normal after a major opening. Of course, while we hope that more people discovered Aalborg and Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, we also hope that their interest will extend to culture in general and to more rewarding discussions about modern art – not just about Take the Money and Run.

 

What do you think about the work?
Unfortunately, our visitors did not see the original work with the framed banknotes. The original work was thought-provoking, because it highlighted wage differences in the EU and expressed in very concrete terms what we get materially when we sell our time to an employer – in the light of studies indicating that, for many people, less tangible elements such as meaning and job satisfaction, are more important than pay.


The new work is something else and must be viewed on its own terms. It has kindled new thoughts and discussions among hundreds of millions of people all over the world. It relates to such topics as the working conditions of artists, the huge role that money plays in our everyday lives, and the appraisal, power and status associated with money. Whether media users refer to the work as “The Emperor’s New Clothes” or “A stroke of genius”, it has prompted many people to think about modern art and given them an experience of art. That is basically the mission of Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg and other public art museums.


Having said that, we also hope that, in the long run, people will direct their attention to the many other thought-provoking works, which Kunsten and other museums exhibit.

 

Haaning has not paid back the money. So, what now?

We have passed on the case to the museum’s lawyer with a view to a civil lawsuit.

This is an unfortunate case, which we would have preferred to resolve on the basis of discussion with Jens Haaning. Artists are our most important collaborators, so we are far from happy about the situation. We are taking this step, because we have a responsibility to the private foundations that have financially supported this exhibition. We also have a responsibility to our visitors in terms of providing them with as many experiences as possible for the money

 

Selected articles on the topic

  • New York Times"In the Name of Art, an Artist Pockets $83,000 and Creates Nothing"
  • Art Daily"Danish artist loaned $84,000 by museum keeps cash, says it's art"
  • Hypebeast"An Artist Was Loaned $84k to Create Art but Pocketed the Money Instead"
  • NPR"For $84,000, An Artist Returned Two Blank Canvasses Titled 'Take The Money And Run'"
  • Spiegel"Künstler liefert leere Bilder – für 70.000 Euro"
  • Artforum"Danish Artist, Protesting “Miserable Working Conditions,” Hands In Blank Canvases for $84K"
  • Independent "Artist given $84,000 by museum and returns two blank canvases called ‘Take the Money and Run’"
  • BBC"Danish museum wants artist to pay back money after producing blank canvasses"
  • VICE"Artist Steals $84,000 From Modern Art Museum, Calls It Conceptual Art"
  • Insider"A museum loaned an artist $84,000 to make art. He turned in empty canvases and titled the work 'Take the Money and Run.'"
  • Newsweek"Artists Who Kept $84,000 Museum Loan For Himself Claims He's Performing Conceptual Art"
  • The Guardian"Danish artist delivers empty frames for $84k as low pay protest"
  • The Washington Post"A Danish museum lent an artist $84,000 for his work. He kept the cash and named the art ‘Take the Money and Run.’"
  • The Art Newspaper"Danish artist takes museum’s money and runs: 'I will not pay it back,' he says"
  • Bloomberg"Danish Artist Takes Museum’s Money and Runs, Calls It Artwork"
  • Artnet"A Danish Museum Lent an Artist $84,000 to Reproduce an Old Work About Labor. Instead, He Pocketed It and Called It Conceptual Art"
  • Kulturmonitor (in Danish) – "Historien om Jens Haanings værk til Kunsten breder sig internationalt: »Det er eksploderet – og jeg forsøger at få det til at handle om vores udstilling«"
  • Jyllands-Posten (in Danish) – "Museet Kunsten i Aalborg har lånt Jens Haaning 550.000 kr. til dette værk. Men hvor er pengene?"
  • Berlingske (in Danish) – "Kunstner lånte 550.000 kroner fra museum til et værk – nu er pengene væk"
  • Kristeligt Dagblad (in Danish) – "Tyveri eller happening? Kunstner skulle skabe et værk af kolde kontanter, men tog pengene og løb"
  • Danmarks Radio (in Danish) – "Kunstneren tog pengene og løb: 'Værket er, at der mangler en halv million'"
  • Politiken (in Danish) – "Kunstner tog pengene og løb. Nu mangler museet en halv million"

 

 

Jens Haaning – Take the Money and Run, 2021. © Niels Fabæk, Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg

 

Jens Haaning – Take the Money and Run, 2021. © Niels Fabæk, Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg

 

Jens Haaning – Take the Money and Run, 2021. © Niels Fabæk, Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg