Controversial Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum has now landed in a legal conflict with his former partners at his own Nerdrum Institute. They’ve won a court order that secures them a right to proceeds from the sale of Nerdrum’s farm in Stavern, southwest of Oslo, because of fears Nerdrum won’t pay them agreed commissions on sales of his paintings.
The former partners include Allis Helleland, the former head of Norway’s National Museum and the state art museum in Copenhagen, along with Bjørn Li and Kjell Wenstad. Li and Wenstad founded the art gallery Kunsthuset in Oslo and both have long been art dealers and exhibit curators.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported in January that Nerdrum was breaking off cooperation with his own institute, which was formed in 2010 to certify and sell his paintings and drawings around the world. The partners, who serve as board members of the institute, were informed through a press release sent to DN at the time by Nerdrum and his wife, Turid Spildo, that the arist wanted to end the cooperation after an exhibit set to run at the Forum Gallery in New York from March 8 to May 10.
The press release followed a letter sent by Spildo and Nerdrum to the institute last November, in which the couple complained over a lack of museum exhibitions and claimed the institute “has no meaning.” They compared their cooperation with the institute, which Nerdrum himself had initiated, to a marriage they wanted to exit. “No one can be forced to love,” Spildo wrote. “If one partner wants out, it’s over. We don’t want an agonizing lawsuit over this. We are grown people and there aren’t any children involved, so that should be possible.”
They also requested that the website for The Nerdrum Institute be shut down immediately and that the rights to its domain, Nerdrum.com, be turned over to the artist.
That didn’t happen, the institute’s board members hired a lawyer and now DN reports that a court in Larvik, close to the site of Nerdrum’s farm, has placed a legal attachment on its assets in the sum of NOK 13 million (about USD 2.3 million). The court ruled in favour of the institute’s board, noting that Nerdrum has a binding legal agreement with the institute valid until 2019. The court also said there was no doubt the institute should be paid 50 percent of art sales and that there was reason to fear that Nerdrum would seek to “avoid his obligations” because of earlier behaviour that was deemed “worthy of rebuke” and “against the law.” Nerdrum last fall was sentenced to two years in prison for tax evasion, but he has appealed, blames his financial trouble on his ex-wife and claims the government and tax authorities have been out to get him for more than 40 years.
Nerdrum and Spildo are now living in Paris and have been trying to sell the farm, called Rørvik Gård, for NOK 22 million. A real estate broker said one offer was received for around NOK 20 million, and that “four or five” interested buyers planned to come for another showing.
His institute partners fear Nerdrum will move proceeds from a sale out of the country. They claim the artist already has moved several of his paintings from Norway to his new home in Paris, and could transfer assets to his wife at any time. That’s why they wanted a legal attachment to the property in Norway.
DN cited court documents and reported that none of the parties involved would respond to inquiries. Nerdrum’s tax evasion appeal is due to come up in court in Oslo later this year.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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