Danish Artist Takes Museum’s Money and Runs, Calls It Art

A Danish museum loaned artist Jens Haaning tens of thousands of dollars and asked him to recreate two of his most popular artworks, which involved the use of real banknotes, only he took the money and ran, an act he describes as an original work of art.

The Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg asked Jens Haaning to recreate two of his most popular artworks, one he had produced in 2011 called An Average Danish Annual Income, which featured krone banknotes in a frame, and an earlier version, An Average Austrian Annual Income. For the original works, Haaning had borrowed the money from banks, but this time the museum agreed to loan him the cash from its limited reserves. He required 328,000 kroner for the Danish annual salary and €25,000 for the Austrian salary. Only instead of recreating the artworks, he just sent the museum two empty canvases, and the message that him keeping the money they had lent him was the actual artwork.

Photo: Kunsten Museum

“The work is that I have taken their money,” Haaning told the Danish radio program P1 Morgen last week. “It’s not theft. It is a breach of contract, and breach of contract is part of the work.”

“Of course I will not pay it back,” the artist added. “The work is that I took the money and I will not give it back.”

Lasse Andersen, the director of the Kunsten Museum, claims that a day before a new art exhibition was to open, Jens Haaning had the commissioned artworks delivered, only when the package was opened, it contained just two empty frames. He also bothered sending an email saying he thought it was more interesting to do a new work called “Take the Money and Run”.


“I absolutely want to give Jens the right to say that a new work has been created in its own right, which actually comments on the exhibition we have, but that is not the agreement we had,” Andersen said, adding that he does not intend to go to the police about this just yet, as the artist has until January 16, next year, to return the money he was lent.

Haaning, on the other hand, has made it very clear that he has no intention of returning the money to the museum.


“No, it’s not going to happen. The work is that I have taken their money,”  he told national broadcaster DR.