Norway’s famed contemporary artist Odd Nerdrum finally had a good day in court this week, with his defense attorney predicting that Nerdrum now may avoid jail after all, and be acquitted of the serious tax evasion charges filed against him.
Nerdrum’s first victory came when the Norwegian Supreme Court (Høyesterett) nullified his conviction and prison term and sent the case back to the appeals court (lagmannsretten), where a new trial must now be carried out. The high court ruled that the appeals court conviction was deficient in its legal grounds for the alleged tax evasion.
“Now we’ll start fresh with a new case in the appeals court,” Nerdrum’s defense attorney Pål Berg told newspaper Aftenposten. “I’m very satisfied.”
So, he thought, was his client, who wasn’t present in the Supreme Court when the ruling was handed down. Berg called Nerdrum with the news at the artist’s current home in France.
String of court cases
Nerdrum was initially sentenced to two years in jail by an Oslo city court after being convicted in 2011 of failing to pay taxes on nearly NOK 14 million in proceeds from the sale of paintings. Nerdrum appealed, only to see his conviction upheld and his punishment sharpened when the appeals court sentenced him to two years and 10 months in prison.
Nerdrum appealed again and also has filed charges of his own against the tax authorities. He lost in the first round and that case is up for appeal next year. Nerdrum has also been involved in a third case involving a conflict with former partners at The Nerdrum Institute.
Commentators in Norway have been speculating this week over whether or how all of Nerdrum’s legal problems are affecting his art. Nerdrum, now age 68, has claimed all along that the Norwegian state is persecuting him and he left the country years ago, residing first in Iceland and, most recently, in France. He has said that a prison term would ruin him.
Family ‘app’ support
“This case has really been an ordeal for him, with all the subsequent media attention,” Berg told Oslo newspaper Dagsavisen before his latest appeal to the Supreme Court was heard. “He feels unfairly treated and is in despair that he hasn’t been believed.”
Now the country’s highest court apparently does believe him, and at the very least, Nerdrum has a new opportunity to clear his name. He claims he has paid all the taxes he owes, to both Iceland and to Norway.
Nerdrum’s family also still believes in him, with his wife and sons often appearing in court with him. Newspaper Aftenposten recently reported that his sons Bork and Øde also have created a new mobile phone application (app) where 200 of Nerdrum’s paintings are assembled. Øde Nerdrum told Aftenposten that they want to reach art enthusiasts worldwide.
“This is a visual exhibit whre you can go though the paintings and see them in detail,” Øde Nerdrum told Aftenposten. “It’s a gift from us to the people. You can compare (their father’s art) with great painters with Rembrandt and Tizian, and find that the pictures are just as great.”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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