An appeals court in Oslo has upheld Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum’s conviction for tax evasion, but reduced his sentence and the extent of the evasion that Nerdrum has consistently denied. The 70-year-old artist must still serve a year in custody.
The court (Borgarting lagmannsrett) has now sentenced Nerdrum to one year and eight months in prison, with eight of the months suspended. His defense attorney, John Christian Elden, told state broadcaster NRK that the court “has now brought this case down to earth,” with the sentence “dramatically reduced.”
Nerdrum had initially been sentenced to two years and 10 months in jail and had appealed all the way to Norway’s Supreme Court, which nullified his sentence on the grounds of judicial deficiencies. That meant the appeals court had to handle Nerdrum’s appeal all over again, prolonging the legal battle that has swirled around the artist for several years.
Now he faces a year in jail, unless he appeals again to the Supreme Court. Elden said that a year in jail “wouldn’t be the best thing” for the artist whose paintings have sold for millions both in Norway and abroad. Asked whether Nerdrum can tolerate confinement, Elden said that if Nerdrum accepts his sentence, he’d explore the possibility of arranging a form of “open custody” outside of a standard jail cell.
Nerdrum, known almost as much in Oslo for his flowing robes and eccentricities as for what many call his artistic masterpieces, has long quarreled with Norwegian authorities and the media, and eventually went into self-imposed exile in Iceland. He later returned to Norway but was living in France when his lengthy round of tax trouble began.
He has mostly continued to avoid the media but appeared on the popular Scandinavian talk show Skavlan three years ago, in which he admitted to being “paranoid” and claimed the Norwegian authorities “have been out after me since I was 20 years old.” The interview was held connection with the opening of one of his last major art exhibitions in Sollentuna, outside Stockholm.
Nerdrum has also been caught in legal quarrels with former business partners and lost his appeal of a separate tax audit earlier this year. He appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court in May and is awaiting a decision on whether the case will be heard.
Now, according to Elden, Nerdrum will take some time to decide whether to once again appeal his latest conviction. Nerdrum has admitted to keeping “messy” accounts but still denies he willfully evade taxes on sales of his paintings through US art dealers.