Take the Money and Run: Danish Artist's Elegant Swindle of Museum for €70,000
The money chase has come to an end. On September 18, the Copenhagen District Court found artist Jens Haaning guilty of embezzling funds from the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art and ordered him to return almost all the money to the aggrieved party, according to the Austrian news agency APA.
'Now we have a court judgment that Kunsten Museum and Jens Haaning can read. We need to read it carefully. There is a four-week appeal period, and since the case may still be appealed, we have no further comments,' said Lasse Andersson, director of the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art.
In 2021, the 'Kunsten' museum in Aalborg, Denmark, provided artist Jens Haaning with a substantial sum of cash. The artist was supposed to reproduce a previously agreed-upon artwork across two canvases, for which he was to attach a year's worth of Danish and Austrian salaries in banknotes.
The exhibition, 'Work it Out,' where the Kunsten Museum planned to display two older works by Jens Haaning, was dedicated to the future world of work. The earlier works featured the average Austrian annual income for 2007 and the average Danish annual income. They had previously been exhibited at Heart in Herning in 2010.
However, for the new exhibition, the annual income was updated to the conditions of 2021, resulting in the artwork consisting of banknotes with a total value of 532,549 Danish kroner.
The artist received the funds through Nemkonto af Kunsten. A contract was signed between Kunsten and Jens Haaning stipulating that the money should be returned after the exhibition closed.
When the exhibition ended, Jens Haaning did not return the money as specified in the contract, leading the museum to file a civil lawsuit.
When museum staff opened the transport containers, they were met with a surprise: empty frames. These empty frames substituted for the agreed-upon two works, for which the artist had borrowed over half a million kroner.
Jens Haaning explained that he had created an entirely new work titled 'Take the Money and Run.' The work involved Haaning taking the money—more than half a million kroner in total—and fleeing. Haaning himself described it as an act of revenge.
Since then, Haaning had been in hiding.