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Artist Ordered to Return Museum Money After Submitting Blank Frames

A Danish artist was given $76,000 by a museum to facilitate some artwork that was to be displayed in the museum. However, controversy arose after this man presented two blank frames titled, “Take the Money and Run.”

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After almost two years of legal battle, the Copenhagen City Court has ruled that Jens Haaning must return the 530,000 Danish krone ($76,000).

One of the two empty canvases submitted by Danish artist, Jens Haaning, to Kunsten Museum. Jen was contracted to re-create his former pieces and submit improved versions of them.
One of the two empty canvases submitted by Danish artist, Jens Haaning, to Kunsten Museum. Jen was contracted to re-create his former pieces and submit improved versions of them. Source| CNN

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Jens Haaning was under contract with the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark. The funds were intended for the creation of updated versions of two earlier art pieces, for an exhibition focused on the future of labor.

Haaning, however, defended this move as a commentary on low wages and a reflection on social structures and institutions. The artist argued that the new pieces were actually more improved and invited viewers to contemplate societal norms.

Aside from that, he added that the pieces prompted the question of whether individuals must work for money or can simply take it. The witty artist maintained that he did not consider it theft but rather an artistic expression of a higher caliber.

One of the two pieces artist Jens Haaning was paid to recreate.
One of the two pieces artist Jens Haaning was paid to recreate. Source| CNN

The court ruled that Haaning was obligated to return the loaned funds, deducting 40,000 krone ($5,730) for artist and display fees. The judgment emphasized that Haaning’s artwork did not meet the specifications outlined in his contract with the museum.

Apparently, according to the contract, he had agreed to deliver two different pieces. In response to Haaning’s counter-claim of copyright infringement by the museum, the court dismissed the assertion. Additionally, Haaning was ordered to cover the legal proceedings’ associated costs.

In 1958, conceptual artist Yves Klein exhibited an empty room to thousands of people. Additionally, other contemporary artists have done absurd things in the art world to express their minds. For instance, Maurizio Cattelan taping a banana to a wall and Banksy shredding a painting at auction. 

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Kunsten Museum’s director, Lasse Andersson, stated that the museum would await Haaning’s decision on a possible appeal before providing further comment. The controversial artwork was showcased as part of the museum’s “Work it Out” exhibition from September 2021 to January 2022.

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