Odd Nerdrum, arguably Norway’s most acclaimed contemporary painter, is under indictment for serious tax evasion. Norwegian authorities have charged him with failing to report income on several foreign sales completed at least a decade ago.
The tax authorities in Norway claim Nerdrum allegedly failed to report foreign sales revenues of around NOK 14 million (USD 2.5 million at current exchange rates). Nerdrum disputes the charges, according to his defense attorney in Oslo, who says Nerdrum merely followed the advice of his tax adviser at the time.
Newspaper VG reported last week that Norwegian tax authorities first reported Nerdrum to the police last year. He now is under indictment and faces up to six years in prison if found guilty.
The alleged tax violations took place between 1998 and 2002, which newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) has reported to be among his most productive years with more than 50 paintings to his credit. Several were sold for large amounts during the period, when Nerdrum’s sales reportedly were handled by Forum Gallery in the US.
Nerdrum lived at the time in Norway, emigrated to Iceland in 2002 and moved back to Norway in 2007. Sales of his paintings and drawings are now handled by The Nerdrum Institute, which the artist set up last year.
Nerdrum announced years ago that he would never speak with Norwegian journalists, but his defense attorney John Christian Elden, himself well-known in Norway, says Nerdrum believes he is innocent. He blames the indictment on a “disagreement” between tax authorities and Nerdrum’s tax adviser.
The adviser, lawyer Petter Hartz-Hanssen, told DN that Nerdrum has not evaded taxes but rather paid them to Iceland, not Norway. Prosecutors claim the tax should have been paid to Norway in the years when it was earned, before Nerdrum moved to Iceland.
Asbjørg Lykkjen of the Oslo Police said investigators have spent a lot of time gathering information on amounts paid out by the gallery to Nerdrum, and when. “As we see it, he hasn’t declared the income at all,” Lykkjen told DN.
Elden responded that Nerdrum, among candidates to move into the state’s honorary home for a leading artist, must be able to follow the advice of his adviser without facing indictment because of a disagreement. The case is due to come up in court later this year.