IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Danish artist who ignored job and gave museum blank canvases ordered to give back over $70,000

Jens Haaning was given thousands to recreate two art pieces, which included bank notes attached to canvas. Instead, he delivered empty frames.
A woman stands in front of an empty frame hung up at the Kunsten Museum in Aalborg, Denmark
A woman stands in front of an empty frame hung up at the Kunsten Museum in Aalborg, Denmark, on Sept. 28, 2021. Henning Bagger / AFP - Getty Images file

A Danish artist who gave a museum two blank canvases to place on display two years ago was ordered to repay a portion of his fees by a Copenhagen court on Monday.

Jens Haaning was ordered to repay the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg a total of 492,549 Danish Krone, more than $70,000, for violating the terms of his deal with the museum, according to a translated statement from the Copenhagen City Council.

Haaning was asked in 2021 to recreate two of his prior works for the museum, one of which included a representation of annual wages in Denmark and Austria by attaching bank notes to a canvas. The museum also gave him bank notes for the piece.

Instead, he delivered two blank canvases, which he titled "Take the Money and Run."

Haaning said in an interview on DR, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, that the art was representative of his current work situation.

“I encourage others who have just as miserable working conditions as I to do the the same,” Haaning said at the time. “If they are being asked to give money to go to work, then take the money and run.”

The museum filed a suit against Haaning demanding repayment, accusing him of violating their written agreement. Haanning countersued, accusing the museum of violating copyright law.

The Danish court ruled in favor the museum, stating that Haaning had no right to change the terms of the agreement on how the bank notes would be used and dismissed his copyright claim, according to the city council statement.

His ordered repayment is only a portion of what he was initially given by the museum to recreate the art, as the court ruled he's not liable for the artist fee and display fees.

Following the ruling, Haaning told the DR that he doesn't believe he'll pursue an appeal. But he also doesn't have the money, he said.

"It has been good for my work, but it also puts me in an unmanageable situation where I don’t really know what to do," he told DR.