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Odd Nerdrum, <em>Drifting</em>, 2007
Odd Nerdrum, Drifting, 2007


Aug. 22, 2011

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The celebrated Norwegian painter Odd Nerdrum has been convicted of tax evasion in his native Norway and sentenced to two years in prison without bail on Aug. 17, 2011. The 67-year-old artist is accused of failing to pay taxes on $2.8 million in cash -- he had the funds in a safety deposit box in Austria -- which came from sales during 1998-2002, the years right before he became a citizen of Iceland. In Norway, the ruling and sentence are considered particularly tough.

Nerdrum has pled not guilty and his attorney has filed an appeal. He claims that the $2.8 million is a reserve fund designed to compensate collectors for 36 paintings made in the 1980s with an experimental medium. The medium can melt when exposed to heat, and Nerdrum established the cash fund in order to refund the collectors’ purchases if they so demanded. Nerdrum has also offered to re-paint the artworks in question.

The court was not convinced. “The only reason for placing cash in a bank box in Austria was to avoid having this income taxed in Norway,” the judge said.

Nerdrum also noted that he had paid his taxes since moving to Iceland ten years ago, in a highly publicized protest against the government of his native land. The court took into account that Nerdrum has the neurological disease known as Tourette’s Syndrome in its deliberations, but determined that the disease was not relevant to the case.

Nerdrum told the court that the charges against him are “rubbish” and that the nine-year-long investigation is intended to drive him to suicide. The artist was with his students at the Louvre in Paris when he heard that he had been convicted.

What’s more, the artist won’t be able to paint in prison if he begins his sentence. In Norway, prisoners aren’t allowed to continue their business activities while held in custody. Non-professional artists are allowed to paint in prison as a hobby.

Known for what might be called “Post-apocalyptic Old Masterism,” Nerdrum holds political views that are generally to the right: he prefers monarchy, despises Norway’s ruling Labor party, as well as multiculturalism and notions of political correctness. He also “boycotts” the Norwegian media, and refuses to allow his photograph to be taken or used.

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