A Danish artist is refusing to pay back over £60,000 to a local museum after they loaned him the money to a produce a piece – calling the blank space ‘art’.
Jens Haaning received 534,000 Danish krone from the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art to put the work together.
He was expected to construct a piece that focused on the relationship between art and working life.
The museum asked Haaning to send them two picture frames containing the cash, which they wanted to symbolise the average annual income of a person in Denmark and Austria.
But he produced nothing – and won’t give the money back out of protest.
He says he is making a stand against what he called “miserable” working conditions and low pay.
The artist told Danish national broadcaster DR he did not intend to return the museum’s money.
“No, it’s not going to happen – the work is that I have taken their money,” he said.
“No, it’s not theft. It’s a breach of contract, and a breach of contract is part of the work.
“I encourage other people who have working conditions as miserable as mine to do the same.
“If they’re sitting in some s***y job and not getting paid, and are actually being asked to pay money to go to work, then grab what you can and beat it.”
The museum had agreed to pay a further 10,000 krone for his work, as well as covering costs like framing and delivery.
Haaning said the project would still have left him out of pocket.
But Kunsten Museum director Lasse Andersen says the cash should be returned.
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“I would agree with Jens that a work in its own right has been created, which actually comments on the exhibition we have. But that’s not the agreement we had,” he said.
“No, Jens should not get that money.
The Kunsten museum told Euronews Next that it was prepared to take action against the creative if the money was not returned to them.
A spokesman said he has until early 2022 to pay them back.
“Right now we wait and see. If the money is not returned on 16 January as agreed, we will of course take the necessary steps to ensure that Jens Haaning complies with his contract,” a statement read.