The start of this story is a fairly standard one. Artist gets commissioned by a gallery to produce two paintings. In return, the artist gets paid. But the outcome of this arrangement had a very interesting twist, as the artist presented the gallery with two blank canvasses, kept the money and called it ‘Take the money and run’.
So who is the artist and why did they do it?
The artist in question is a Danish artist called Jens Haaning who, from a quick Google search (yes we admit it, we’d never heard of him), and when we say search we mean his Wiki page, is a conceptual artist who has exhibited globally.
His work appears to focus a lot on the disenfranchised, the misplacement of power in modern day society and immigration… so the guy certainly has something to say.
And with this stunt he definitely got people’s attention!
Jens Haaning had been commissioned by the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark to reproduce two of his works, which according to an article on the BBC website ‘represented the annual salary of Denmark and Austria’ (to be honest we’re not entirely sure what that exactly means). The agreed payment was 534,000 Kroner or just over £61,500.
But, rather than honouring the agreement, Haaning supplied the Museum with two completely untouched canvasses, kept all the money, and turned the whole thing into a piece of conceptual art by giving his actions the title ‘Take the money and run’.
Apparently, Haaning chose this route to highlight how artists are consistently underpaid and according to Haaning, the deal would have left him out of pocket to the tune of 25,000 Kroner (£2,800)
When we first found out about this ‘stunt’, our initial reaction was a wry smile and thoughts of ‘this guy has got balls’ etc but on further reflection more thoughts began to emerge, things like…
If Haaning was going to make a loss on this arrangement why did he agree to it in the first place?
£61,500 seems like a pretty decent amount of money, but then again we’re not 100% sure what he had agreed to produce. But, if you’re going to agree to a contract you’d look to make sure the money covered your time, materials etc and left you with enough profit that you were satisfied? If you weren’t satisfied then you’d come back with a figure that did, or not agree to the contract.
The other thought we had was, could this just be one big stunt that both parties were in on?
Let’s face it, it wouldn’t be the first time something like this has happened (check out our Banksy/Sotherby’s article) or maybe we’re just too suspicious, but if you look at just how much publicity this has created it’s certainly thrown the artist and the museum into the spotlight.
From what we can find about this story, even though he backed out on the deal and didn’t produce what was agreed, the museum went ahead and hung the two blank canvasses so they can’t have been that upset about it all.
If the museum wasn’t in on it then it’s a brave move by Haaning. Simply calling it ‘Take the money and run’ doesn’t change the fact it is still a form of theft. Plus, won’t this affect his reputation as no one will trust him to produce the work he agrees to in the future?
Whatever the truth is (and personally we think it’s just a big publicity stunt), Haaning has certainly got people’s attention and in our internet driven world, where you’re bombarded with information, standing out from the crowd is easier said than done.