Odd Nerdrum, one of Norway’s most famous and controversial artists, was found guilty of tax evasion and sentenced to two years in prison on Wednesday. Nerdrum has earlier denied the allegations, and his defense attorney quickly filed an appeal.
Nerdrum was absent when his sentence was passed. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that he was with assistants and students at the Louvre in Paris when he was informed that he’d been found guilty of criminal tax evasion.
Famous for his apocalyptic paintings, the 67-year-old artist was accused of not paying taxes on some 14 million kroner paid to his gallery for his work between 1998 and 2002. The court ruled that Nerdrum had evaded paying taxes on around 10 million kroner and that his fiscal fraud had cost the Norwegian state around five million kroner in lost revenues.
The court took into consideration that Nerdrum suffers from Tourettes syndrome, but still believed that the artist had a “conscious attitude” towards the income his art generates.
“Nerdrum has been found guilty of aggravated fiscal fraud,” the Oslo district court ruled, defining the crime as aggravated because the artist had “put significant work into hiding his assets,” especially by placing a large quantity of money in a safety deposit box in Austria.
Odd Nerdrum claimed that the money was set aside against claims on large compositions that he made in the 1980’s with an experimental medium of mastic and linseed oil. After several years, collectors complained that they began to melt if they got too warm. Though he generously painted 36 new paintings of the same images between 1989 – 2002 in order to replace the damaged paintings, many of the collectors wanted to be compensated with money instead of new paintings. This problem is quite well known and extensively documented. Considering the price of his work, this fund for potential claims is quite small.
Nerdrum also claimed he had paid taxes to Iceland, where he moved after going into a highly public self-imposed exile from Norway round 10 years ago.
One confusing part to this story is a number of sources have reported that, Nerdrum had since settled his dues with the Norwegian tax authorities, pleaded not guilty and yet was jailed.
At the beginning of his trial, Nerdrum had said the whole case was nothing but “bullshit” and that he was “not good with numbers.” A resident of Iceland since 2003, the artist was reportedly planning to move to France before the case began. The 67-year-old artist, who boycotts Norwegian media and won’t allow his photograph to be taken or used because of an unspecified slight by the Norwegian media.