Artist told to make art out of $84,000 in cash pockets it instead, delivers empty canvases

The artwork is called 'Take the Money and Run.'
The artwork is called 'Take the Money and Run.' Photo credit: Jens Haaning

A Danish museum director who gave US$84,000 (NZ$122,000) to an artist for use in an exhibition piece is shocked after the artist pocketed the money and delivered empty canvases as his handiwork.

The whereabouts of the money remains a mystery and the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art is considering further action to ensure the cash is returned.

Jens Haaning, the artist in question, insists what he delivered is art, however - calling the empty canvases 'Take the Money and Run'.

The museum's director, Lasse Andersson, says museum staff learned the cash was missing when they opened the crates the art was delivered in.

Andersson initially saw the funny side of the prank.

"The exhibition is called 'Work it Out' and features works of art by many different contemporary artists," he told CBS News.

"Jens is known for his conceptual and activistic art with a humoristic touch. And he gave us that - but also a bit of a wake-up call as everyone… wonders, 'Where did the money go?'"

Haaning explained the idea of 'Take the Money and Run' was to question artists' conditions and rights in the workplace.

"Everyone would like to have more money and, in our society, work industries are valued differently," he said in a statement, as reported by CBS.

"The artwork is essentially about the working conditions of artists. It is a statement saying that we also have the responsibility of questioning the structures that we are part of."

Andersson told CBS he hopes Haaning will return the money before the exhibition finishes on January 16.

"We will, of course, take the necessary steps to ensure that Jens Haaning complies with his contract."