Our neck hair rises with joy, fear, or anger when the unexpected happens. We are torn out of our dormant mindset and feel alive and suddenly mean something.
This is one of the reasons why the Danish artist Jens Haaning ‘s super simple work – or non-work – “Take the Money and Run” has developed into a bit of a stroke of genius with the attention that extends far beyond the work of art, the art world – and Denmark.
Who has not felt a desire to express his position after it became clear that Jens Haaning had run away with the half a million kroner he had borrowed from Kunsten in Aalborg to rebuild two previous works, and instead left two gaping inches picture frames and a big fat fuck finger for the established art world?
This work of art truly has the power to bring the emotions of both art-interested and uninterested people to a boil, burn through in the media, and create debate – about art.
The conversations have been about whether the man was a brilliant artist or a mean thief, whether one could at all consider his work, which Kunsten in Aalborg chose to hang up, as art, and what in the world is the meaning behind Jens Haaning’s stripped picture frames, and whether it was all an agreed game between artist and museum.
Whatever one may think of Haaning’s work, which in its dematerialized nothingness and title encourages one to take the money and move, if one, like him, is in a relationship where one feels exploited, then it has turned out that develop into a whole lot more and on several levels.
Jens Haaning still refuses to hand over the money; otherwise, he would also devalue his concept. The art in Aalborg has detained the work and stated that they intend to sue him, and the money, yes, Jens Haaning claims it just smokes in the household coffers.
And it fits like a glove to his concept as an artist who needs more butter on the bread than the fee for exhibiting gives him.
The money should not be used for anything extravagant. Where it all ends, and thus also for the significance of the work, we still do not know. It is the source of all its substance.
As it looks right now, everyone has won. The art in Aalborg has been given a PR value that exceeds everything that even the best advertising agency can deliver for half a million kroner.
Jens Haaning, who with all due respect was not a particularly well-known artist before, has become known to Denmark, yes, the world, and considers the work to be his most important to date.
The audience has got one on the experience and a piqued opportunity to relate to the meaning of art without setting foot in an art museum.
And the media, yes, us, we’ve been given a crazy and quirky story that evolves week by week, leaving most of us with a buttery laugh when we retell its content because there’s something pretty funny and flabby all over it.
During the course, Haaning has told of a speech of thanks given by the Croatian artist Slaven Tolj as curator behind the Croatian pavilion in Venice in 2005.
Here the Croatian said that he had no idea what the project was going to be about but that he would in no way meet the audience’s expectations and instead do everything to disappoint them. Having loved that attitude and agreed that if art is romantic, one should refrain from doing what is expected.
It may be that Kunsten in Aalborg did not get what they expected when they drilled the screws out of the transport boxes, but the process that has since unfolded has proved to be a dizzying trip around the art world’s most crooked corners for all parties involved. Is it not that wonderful?