Danish artist behind ‘Take the Money and Run’ refuses to pay museum

A few years ago, 57-year-old Danish artist Jens Henning was becoming frustrated with the cost of designing a museum commission. After a bad car accident left Hanning off the road, he had to hire a driver to take him to Berlin and quarantine in a hotel for a week due to Covid restrictions – all while framing artworks for an exhibition. Was done for.

“Suddenly, the burden on my shoulders became even greater,” Hanning said in an interview with The Washington Post. He found it “completely unfair that I need to have money in my pocket to go to work.”

The situation was especially ironic, Hanning says, because the pieces were meant for a 2021 exhibition at Aalborg’s Kunstmuseum of Modern Art about labor. They were re-creating artworks – “An average Austrian annual income” and “An average Danish annual income”, first displayed in 2010 and 2007 – which included the average salaries of those countries, displayed in hard cash. They went. The museum at that time loaned him the equivalent of $84,000 on the condition that he return it.

Instead, Hanning decided to pay himself a salary to “take the money and run”, as is evident from the title of the work. He sent two large empty frames to the museum and deposited the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars into his bank account, which he used for groceries and bills. “I didn’t do anything extraordinary,” he told The Post.

He has said that not paying the museum is part of the art.

Now the museum wants its money back. A Danish court on Monday ordered Haning to repay 492,549 Danish kroner (about $70,000) to compensate for his “poor performance,” raising questions about the blurry line between fraud and comment and whether Haning was breaking the law. Was – or was just pushing boundaries.

The museum declined to comment on the case and Haning’s expenses. During the four-week appeal period.

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People rail against contemporary art too much: “I could do that,” he says, and Haning’s frames seem to underline his point. He argues that the work deals with “existential” concerns, which may seem to some people like a high-school student turning a blank page for a history essay and saying it is about History can never be recorded completely. It sounds like a stunt, but is it? and you can In fact Have done?

Haning wasn’t so sure he could do it. The artist, whose work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art PS1 in New York and whose early career was surveyed at the 2017 Gothenburg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, pondered the idea for months. “I was thinking, ‘You’re not going to do that. It’s so rude.’ ‘It’s completely against the rules,'” he recalls. “But somehow I realized that it was a form of art. Would make a great specimen.”

Despite pursuing the lawsuit, the museum did not necessarily disagree. It displayed the pieces and described them on its website as “recognition that works of art, despite intentions to the contrary, are part of a capitalist system that values ​​a work based on certain arbitrary terms.”

But that hasn’t stopped the museum from “conflating the symbolic and economic value of an artwork, a distinction that artists have made repeatedly over the past century and a half,” Alexander Alberto, an art historian at Barnard College, wrote in an email. Is “strange”.

Haning’s work is not without precedent. Conceptual art typically deals with forces that exist beyond the eye, and may make you look at a pile of newspaper, a tree trunk, an empty chair, or other seemingly ordinary objects. The point is not what is in front of you, but what the object evokes, what thoughts it evokes, what systems it reflects – and sometimes, as in “take the money and run”, there What is not?

Blake Stimson, an art historian at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said the work is both a stunt and an “effective example” of institutional criticism, a movement in which interrogating institutions, often museums themselves, is considered an artistic practice.

Stimson explored the approach of Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 “Fountain,” in which the artist turned a urinal upside down, signed it and declared it art. He compares Hanning’s piece to Hans Haacke’s “Shapolsky et al.” Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, a Real Time Social System to May 1, 1971,” which investigated the fraudulent activities of a major New York real estate corporation over two decades.

Both “focus on the methods of capitalism.” civil contract The agreement is between the employee and the employer (in the case of Haning) or the tenant and the landlord (in the case of Haacke). Social Contract Among civilians, Stimson wrote in an email.

For Hanning, the message he hopes to convey is simple: “If you’re participating in something – a religion, a marriage – and the construct is inappropriate for you, you should probably consider it,” he said. Said while stepping back. “Eh, just take the money and run away.”

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