Finance Minister Siv Jensen stepped in for a second time on Tuesday to settle a conflict over what constitutes art, and whether Norway’s VAT should be slapped on a series of paintings created by Norwegian contemporary artist Bjarne Melgaard. Jensen determined that the tax should not apply, and that Melgaard’s art should be released by customs immediately.
“Melgaard can pick up his pictures today,” Jensen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), after an attorney representing Melgaard had complained that the conflict had not been settled. An exhibition of the pictures at a local gallery also had to be cancelled, according to Gard Eiklid of the gallery Rod Bianco, “because we couldn’t wait any longer for the pictures.”
The art works by Melgaard were valued at NOK 350,000 each, leaving Melgaard with a VAT bill of NOK 1.3 million in order to bring the 16 paintings into the country. It wasn’t the first time that art, which is exempt from the tax, had been subjected to it anyway, because of a lack of clarity over how art is defined.
Jensen took the matter into her own hands after claiming that the regulations were unclear. “There was a need to make changes (in the wording of the rules) so that the customs officers can have an easier job,” Jensen said. Other changes in the regulations will be sent out to hearing soon.