October 10, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011 - ,, 2 comments

Post from Norway: Tax Evasion or Conservation Repayment? Odd Nerdrum's Troubles (Part II)

by Therese Veier

Odd Nerdrum kept a storage box in an Austrian bank where he stashed $ 900,000. Why he did this is disputed and seems to be at the core of the disagreement. According to the district court, there is substantial evidence that the artist kept the cash in a storage box in a foreign bank in order to intentionally withhold a substantial amount of profit made from the sale of art works from the IRS.

The artist’s explanation as for why he needed to store such a huge amount of cash is the following:
I kept the money in a bank vault in Austria, as an insurance fund against damages, resulting from a period where I used a particular oil paint that after a few years began to “melt” and slide down the canvas on a variety of pictures that had been sold.
The artist states that he has tried to remedy some of the damage by painting new pictures that would replace the old ones, in addition to putting aside funds in a safety deposit box intended to be used as compensation to collectors that had bought damaged works. At the most, the cash amount in the bank box was $ 900,000, according to Nerdrum.

However the district court does not believe the artists explanation about why he needed and kept a deposit box with cash, because the artist has changed his statements and various reasons as to why he kept such a huge amount of cash in a storage box, and the judge does not believe the artist when he claims that the storage box belongs to his American art dealer.

As to the two-year jail sentence, in the past, courts have tended to be stricter in their punishments for white-collar crimes. Should artists be treated differently from other people just because they claim to be no good with numbers? Does the commercial art world and art speculation encourage artists to, perhaps unintentionally, violate rules for reporting sales and keeping correct accounting of their income without really understanding the full consequences of their actions? Like other professionals, artists have to submit to the same laws and regulations regarding taxes as others, and if their financial abilities are limited they should hire help. But up until now I have not heard of other similar cases where the artist has been sentenced to jail for several years and specifically forbidden to make art works in that period.

This story will be concluded in tomorrow's post.


Thank for writing about this topic.
However, I don't think you have all the information available as it seems that you are presuming his guilt by the way you've written this article.

For example, Nerdrum did dispute the numbers during the trial and provided a logical explanation with concrete evidence to back it up. Further, he was the one who told the court about the safe deposit box... evidence of his innocence, not his guilt. Yet the court ignored this evidence.

Also, the court did not provide proof of a key piece of evidence in the prosecution: an alleged bank account in NY, which never belonged to Nerdrum. This is faulty evidence.

The simple fact is that the court did not have concrete evidence, but Nerdrum did have evidence in his defense.

The court convicted him on suspicion and not evidence... which is a violation of human rights. And this is why the appeals court justly overturned the sentence recently. Let's hope they take more care to stick to the facts in the new trial!


I am very sorry that you interpret my series of articles as prejudiced and that I presume the artists guilt in this matter because this was never my intention. As I stated my articles (the three part series) where based on facts available to the press and media in October last year when they where written.

I have just referred the courts initial verdict, and specifically not speculated about their possibly underlying reasons for this verdict. Also I have never written anything about a possible and disputed bank account in NY, only about an account in Austria.

My intention in writing about this trial was that I had never heard of similar cases anywhere, and was shocked by both verdict and sentence especially that he would be denied to paint while in jail. I was curious to hear if anyone else had encountered similar trials against artists in other countries. However as of yet I have never heard of similar cases so the court’s initial verdict must be quite unique.

It is fortunate that his appeal has now been approved so the facts can be investigated thoroughly.