“‘Charles,’ said Cordelia, ‘Modern Art is all bosh, isn’t it?’
–Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited, 1945.
Representatives of the international credentialed elite are in the natural order of things in charge of our cultural institutions. They are responsible for the custodianship and ongoing cultivation of the artistic heritage of our civilization.
John Ruskin observed: “Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts, the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others, but of the three the only trustworthy one is the last.”
What does the above exhibition say about Denmark and Western Civilization in the current period?
This sort of thing, which we see everywhere all the time, is very much like a real world dramatization of the old fairy tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes. All the experts happily participate in the outrageous fraud simply because not one of them is courageous enough to defy the general consensus and speak the truth.
Consequently, it is impossible not to applaud the enterprising effrontery of “artist” Jens Haaning and the discomfiture of the Kunsten Museum.
A Danish museum lent an artist $84,000 for his work. He kept the cash and named the art ‘Take the Money and Run.’
When the staff at Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in northern Denmark opened boxes last week from artist Jens Haaning, they expected to see pieces featuring the half-million kroner they lent him for the works of art, the director told a Danish radio show host.
Instead, the museum — which had commissioned Haaning to re-create two of his older pieces that were made with cash — found two empty frames.
The new name for the artwork: “Take the Money and Run.”
Now, the museum in Aalborg, Denmark, is accusing him of breaking their legal agreement and demanding the artist return the 534,000 kroner, the equivalent of over $84,000.
“The work is that I have taken their money,” Haaning said in an interview with Danish radio show “P1 Morgen.”
The 56-year-old resident of Copenhagen gained popularity in the 1990s. He is known for using art as commentary on money, power and marginalized groups, according to the Faurschou Foundation, a Copenhagen-based art museum.
Haaning’s pieces were meant to be part of a new exhibition at the Kunsten Museum about the labor market entitled “Work It Out.” Running from through Jan. 16, the exhibit features new and existing works from about 20 artists and occupies the majority of the museum.
The museum asked Haaning to re-create his works from 2007 and 2010, which were visual representations of the average annual income for Austrians and Danes, respectively, by displaying the sum in bills affixed to a canvas.
The museum paid him 25,000 kroner — about $3,900 — Haaning told “P1 Morgen,” in addition to fronting the money that would be displayed in the two pieces. But when he realized it would cost him 25,000 kroner alone to fund the project, he decided to change his plans.
“Why do I not make a work that is about my own work situation?” he said.
He said he believes the new artworks are an apt representation of the museum’s exhibit and encourages others to reexamine their work conditions.
Lasse Andersson, the museum director, agrees that Haaning’s work is appropriate for collection but stipulated that his decision to take the money for himself violates their legal agreement.
“I want to give Jens absolutely the right that a work has been created in its own right, which actually comments on the exhibition we have,” Andersson told “P1 Morgen.” “But that is not the agreement we had.”
But Haaning is standing strong, noting that his decision is what makes the empty frames works of art.
“It’s not theft,” Haaning said. “It is a breach of contract, and breach of contract is part of the work.”
Would you lend this loser money?
“Jens Haaning (b. 1965) has from the outset of his artistic career been politically engaged. Back in the 1990s he was one of those who turned the focus on outsiders in Danish society. Many of his works take their starting point in marginalized groups, and through these he investigates intolerance and the condition of being alien or different. Haaning works with the meanings inherent in our language and the way we communicate visually, and he often makes use of a simple but precise device to deal with complex situations. His works range from the visibly political as in ‘Weapon production’ (1995) to the more minimalistic, site-specific exchanging of light bulbs between a street in Kassel and one in Hanoi, ‘Kassel-Hanoi (Light bulb exchange)’ (2002). ‘Danmark, Denmark’ (2005) consists of the text “Denmark” written in large black capitals on the wall of the gallery. The first time the work was exhibited in Denmark in 2005, it aroused a sensation because the Danish political debate at the time was coloured by strong resistance to giving residence permits to immigrants and refugees in Denmark. Haaning’s work gets to grips with this debate, turning the focus, black on white, on concepts like nationalism and the fear of the foreign.”