The case of Jens Haaning has caught the art and business world in a frenzy. After receiving a commission of £62k by the Kunsten Museum, the Danish artist created two blank canvases, refused to return the money and called the piece Take the Money and Run. His gesture denounces the alleged capitalist institution and its mistreatment of its artists. The institution’s choice to still exhibit Haaning’s work of art supports the artist’s claim that the Kunsten’s main intention is financial gain and publicity, leading me to question the authenticity of other art institutions.
Earlier this year I attended and reviewed ‘Era of Reclamation – Beyond Bridgerton’, a conference held by The British Museum to discuss how the museum itself can better represent Black Britons. At the time, I admired the British Museum’s internal evaluation. However, after recently questioning the authenticity of art institution’s intentions, this ‘evaluation’ seems to be little more than an attempt to act woke. These instituitions want to gain publicity from what seems like a liberal decision, luring true justice seekers to the museum’s exhibitions. It is through this publicity that the British Museum financially gains, ultimately rising them up the capitalist ladder.
We art lovers are just pawns in a game run by galleries and museums. A game that ensures security of their rule over other companies and leaders in capitalism. Truthfully, this should come as no surprise. The British Museum has historically manipulated the public with their display of ‘exotic’ objects: looted artifacts taken from African and Asian countries as part of the brutalities carried out in the colonial period, to please an ignorant European public fascinated with ideas of otherness. Back then, this was the British Museum’s incentive to capture the hearts of nineteenth and early twentieth century bourgeoise art fans through stolen foreign artworks and pass them off as items to educate the British public. Art museums and galleries are still manipulating the public. However, as societal beliefs lean more towards liberalism and an egalitarian point of view, art institutions have adopted a more ‘woke’ approach.
Where does this leave the ordinary art fan who wants to support female artists and or artworks by people of colour? Are we supposed to turn a blind eye to our contribution to capitalism through the financial gain of galleries and museums, in order to support the underrepresented? Or do we boycott the institutions, sacrificing and suppressing our love and need for the visual arts?
Ultimately, our beloved art institutions are going to keep manipulating us, the public and their own artists. Exploiting anyone remotely associated with the art world whilst appearing to cater to their views, is gaslighting us into thinking they actually care about the public’s perception of the art. In reality, all they care about is how their own institution will be perceived and whether their exhibitions have succeeded in reflecting the public’s ideals. Consequently, such institutions earn more publicity for their galleries and museums and more money to keep them at the top of the capitalist ladder.
Image via Wikimedia Commons