The twin daughters of Norwegian shipping tycoon John Fredriksen, regularly listed as one of the world’s wealthiest, have landed in a conflict with Norwegian artist Vebjørn Sand. They’d commissioned him to paint their portraits, as a gift to their father, but objected to Sand’s intention to display them at one of his art exhibits.
Newspaper VG reported Wednesday that Sand has now gone ahead and painted new versions of the portraits that he intends to exhibit despite their earlier objections. For him, he told VG, it would be “completely out of the question” not to exhibit such “central” works.
“It would defy everything I’m put together with as an artist,” Sand told VG. “The portraits are … the finest I have done as double portraits, and completely central to my career as a portrait artist.”
Sand, age 49, first won the job to paint the portraits of Cecilie and Kathrine Astrup Fredriksen, both age 31, 18 months ago. The twins wanted to give the portraits to their father as a gift on his 70th birthday.
Sand told VG that they ordered one portrait but received three. He claims they had an agreement that he could put them on public display. Over time, he told VG, the sisters no longer wanted them shown to others, so he chose to paint new portraits inspired by those ordered.
They’re now about to be included in an exhibit, without their subjects even having seen them. He said he didn’t think it was “natural” to tell them about the portraits, saying it was only natural to “keep working with the theme and rhythm” of the originals.
VG reported that the sisters and their father object to Sand’s exhibition plans but don’t want to say much, to avoid contributing to Sand getting more of the publicity they think he’s seeking. Kathrine Astrup Fredriksen did say, however, that “we asked Vebjørn Sand to respect our wishes not to exhibit the portraits (they’d ordered), since we wanted to keep them within the private sphere. We are glad he respected that.”
She added, though, that the family was disappointed that he now intends to exhibit other portraits based on what they considered a “private gift to our father.”
“We understand that Sand is passionate about his artistic principles, but it’s disappointing that he didn’t respect our wishes and painted new portraits from our private cooperation,” she said. VG reported that no legal challenges are planned, though, because that would give Sand even more publicity. The sisters reportedly have evaluated that in the long term, Sand may find that customers will be reluctant to use Sand as portrait artist, if they can’t rely on the portraits not being exhibited.