Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Odd Nerdrum Sentenced to Two Years in Prison

I am saddened to be the bearer of such shocking news.

My mentor and dear friend, Odd Nerdrum, has been sentenced to two years in prison by a Norwegian court. He is a man who has dedicated his life's work to defending human dignity, a man who has given his profound knowledge freely to thousands of students without charging a single penny, a man who has inspired millions with his masterly and empathetic paintings - a man who generously opened his home and family to my wife and me when we lost our jobs in New York City, in the midst of the financial crisis, and were quite literally homeless...
This man has been sentenced to two years in jail for tax evasion for $1.5 million USD. Oscar Wilde never recovered from his two year imprisonment for homosexuality and died just a few years after his release, at the young age of 46. At Odd's age (67), and considering that he has tourette's syndrome, this sentence could kill him.

Let's be clear here: the charges against him are not that he didn't pay his taxes. He has already settled that with the Norwegian tax authorities, and this was acknowledged by the court. No, the charges are that he intentionally hid money in order to evade taxes. Of this he is not guilty.

Call me biased, but Bernie Madoff, he is not.

For a little context, consider that Ai WeiWei was accused of tax evasion in China, a communist country, and released on bail after two months of house arrest and a fine.
"Xinhua reported that Mr Ai had offered to repay the taxes and would be released because of "his good attitude in confessing his crimes". " - from article in BBC above

Conversely, Odd has already paid his exorbitant back taxes, he is not allowed bail and must serve his sentence in full, without being allowed to paint, as well as pay a fine. If the sentence itself doesn't sound appallingly harsh for the circumstances, there's also the fact that they have no solid evidence, and have convicted him based only on some bureaucrat's "suspicion". Wait, doesn't that sound familiar? Why, yes, that's exactly what China did with Ai Weiwei. Yet, why is Norway imposing a more severe punishment than China, a country known for it's human rights violations? But of course, the Norwegian press doesn't present it that way. Why would they? Just as China controls it's press, the Norwegian press is funded by the Norwegian government.

Artist Pleads Not Guilty to tax evasion.

Odd Nerdrum Sentenced to Two Years in Jail

Here's what they don't tell you in the Norwegian press. First, they claim that a $900,000 fund in a safe deposit box, was placed there to evade taxes. Odd set aside the money for claims on large compositions that he made in the 1980's with an experimental medium of mastic and linseed oil. After several years, collectors complained that they began to melt if they got too warm. Though he generously painted 36 new paintings of the same images between 1989 - 2002 in order to replace the damaged paintings, many of the collectors wanted to be compensated with money instead of new paintings. This problem is quite well known and extensively documented, and the fund in question was stipulated in the contract with Forum Gallery. And considering the price of his work, this fund for potential claims is quite small.

Odd's explanation is backed up by documents. The courts case is built upon conjecture.

Secondly, Odd's bank keeps records up to ten years back. So, despite the fact that Odd provided all the necessary papers to prove his innocence for the years 2001-02, (just before he renounced his Norwegian citizenship and became an Icelandic citizen) he could not get any records for 1998-2000. They had no evidence to prove that he evaded taxes: no documents, no witnesses, no fingerprints, merely suspicion. Do you keep your tax records from over ten years ago? In the U.S we have what's called a statute of limitations, but apparently Norway doesn't. We also believe that it's the responsibility of the court to prove a man's guilt, not his responsibility to prove his innocence. Again, apparently this doesn't apply to Norwegian courts.

Is this worth a court case and two years in jail? Even if he were "guilty", why is this a criminal case to begin with, why not just a civil case?

It shocks me that this kind of persecution can be so blatantly pursued in our day, against such an international treasure. As this so profoundly effects our intellectual and creative community, I thought I must tell you. So, what is it that they want? Do they want Odd to demonstrate "his good attitude in confessing his crimes"? Do they want to make a political scapegoat out of him? I'll let you decide for yourself, but if you ask me, something is rotten in the state of Norway.


The vilest deeds like poison-weeds
Bloom well in prison-air:
It is only what is good in Man
That wastes and withers there:
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate
And the Warder is Despair.
- Oscar Wilde, The Ballad of Reading Gaol.




P.S. What can you do? Sign the Petition and contact your local papers and news channels. Spread the word!


22 comments:

AusTex said...

So what is the real reason for this persecution?

Anonymous said...

Odd Nerdrum is a self glorifier and an extreme narcissist. The money probably made him get corrupt as it does anyone else.

Suni (My Brush Name:) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Drink, Memory said...

anonymous: you can't just assume that someone might be corrupt just because they are more successful than you are. well, you can assume it, but only if you're an idiot.

RichardTScott said...

Here's what anonymous #2 said...

"If I were you I'd be very careful about the things I speak of, the Norwegian government is likely to read and document comments from Nerdrum's family and friends, particularly if it provides new information for the prosecution. Stop giving NUMBERS, analysis and unsubstantiated speculative information. Let the lawyers do their job. If you want to help, focus your efforts on a petition for leniency without the other hyperbole. "
- Anonymous #2

Anonymous #2,
1. I'll respect your wish and not reveal your identity, but I think it's important to publish your comment even though you deleted it yourself. Also, I would like readers to know that the author is Chinese. I think this person understands the situation quite well.

2. The hyperbole and speculation is coming from the Norwegian press, which is funded by the Norwegian government. Anyone can look this up. This is an obvious conflict of interests and everyone should question the statements of a government run press. A free press is the foundation of any democracy.

Any numbers and details that I've included, I have passed by Odd and his lawyer Tor Erling Staff for verification. They have the documents to back this up and have already presented them to the court. I'm still waiting on a statement from Mr. Staff, but it will probably be after the appeal goes through.

3. I appreciate your concern, but I do not fear the Norwegian government. They can do nothing to me within the law, and if they step outside of the law, they will be revealed.
You're right, they will try to twist the facts because they're on a witch hunt. I'll take that as an advisement. But, I am an American citizen and have no plans of going anywhere near Norway.

4. I understand why you think we should beg for leniency for an innocent man. But, I believe that it if I simply accepted this and bowed down to an unjust system, I would be complicit in this injustice.

Anonymous said...

AusTex: he is being persecuted for tax evasion. It is simply put, against the law to stuff money you earn into safe deposit boxes and not tell the tax authority, whatever good reason you or your fans think you have.

Some people will find this unfair, other people would find it unfair if Nerdrum got away with a crime other people would be punished for.

Anonymous said...

"he would likely die in prison. " Norwegian prisons are pretty cushy. They look like a college dorm w/ a lounge decorated by IKEA... but anyway... This does seem rather odd, there are plenty of tax cheats in high tax countries so why would they choose an eccentric artist? what, politically, would motivate them? For example, a pastor in Sweden was jailed for reading a chapter of Romans had Od done anything similar to upset the EU elite?

anyway, it sadly reminds me of the phrase: "anarcho-tyranny" when the state harshly punishes the law abiding citizens for minor offenses, yet, for example, Norway cannot or will not control its soaring violent rape rate.

RichardTScott said...

Anonymous,

The money in the safe deposit box was clearly described in the contract with Forum gallery and this was declared many years ago to the Norwegian tax authorities.

This is not evidence, it is simply an attempt to create a bias against him. The court "believed" that it was put there to dodge taxes... there could be no other explanation, right? Well, except the explanation that was in the contract. And even though he's already paid outrageous taxes to begin with, the court "believed" that he underpaid between 1998-2002. They convicted him based on belief and suspicion - not concrete evidence. It is the job of the court to prove guilt, not his responsibility to prove his innocence.

The court and the press are twisting the facts.

Here's another interesting fact: both the judge and the prosecutor in this case are members of the socialist party. Of course they want to crucify someone like Odd.

RichardTScott said...

Next Anonymous,

Well, maybe you and I would survive two years in prison, but I know his temperament well. Persecution can take a massive psychological tole on someone and he is not in great health.

The psychological stress from being imprisoned for two years killed Oscar Wilde at the age of 46. Basically, the same happened with Munch.

Though I agree with the rest of your comment. Thanks for your perspective.

R.T. said...

This is very sad, and I thank you for posting it. Odd Nerdrum is a wonderful artist.

d_flam said...

Wilde wasn't just sentenced to sit in prison for two years. He was sentenced to hard labor, a much different thing altogether. Stop comparing the two, lol!

RichardTScott said...

Yes, he will have to work in prison.

And we can't ignore the psychological stress involved. He won't be allowed to paint for two years. He has a neurological disease. He is not in the best of health. This would not only tax him mentally and physically, but will completely cut off his income.

He has already paid the alleged back taxes twice over. Why didn't they just give him a fine? The obvious answer is they want to crucify him for other people's sins.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he should have paid his taxes. Get your tongue out of his ass.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to think. On the one hand it does seem strict from a U.S. perspective, but on the other hand I read that he kept the money in question in Austria, which does seem a little suspicious. As well, in a news article I read, Odd indicated that he would not be able to paint if he were to pay so much attention to the "numbers". That almost sounds like he couldn't be bothered to make sure his taxes were correct, which of course, is no excuse. I guess we'll see how the appeal goes.

RichardTScott said...

Anonymous,
What an insightful statement! I especially love the visual details, the tongue, the ass... I'm honored to be insulted by such eloquence. Were you implying that I'm not only kissing his ass, but licking? How incredibly clever!

Read the facts again. The court acknowledged that he had paid his taxes. Asserting false information just makes you look ignorant.

And think about it... if he was trying to hide money, why would he take twenty years to create this elaborate scheme, for such a small amount? It doesn't make sense.

Next anonymous,

Well, this isn't just harsh from an American perspective, it looks harsh to the French and Italians that I know as well. And judging from all the research I've done, it is also unprecedented in Norway.

If he's just another person, and should pay taxes like everyone else (which he did), why has he been treated differently than anyone else with the same accusation? Why has he been sentenced differently than everyone else?

RichardTScott said...

Oh yes, I forgot the safety deposit box in Austria.
Why is this suspicious?

You're not confusing it with Switzerland, are you? Switzerland is the country with anonymous banking, not Austria. You know, I think a lot of people confuse the two. Maybe the jury confused the two? Easy mistake. But shouldn't we get the facts straight before we sentence someone to jail?

Lots of people have safety deposit boxes in different countries. Everyone asks their tax accountant how they can pay fewer taxes. Who wants to pay more taxes?
If that's evidence, then they have to convict almost everyone of tax evasion. It's illogical. As long as it is in accordance with the law (and it was in accordance with the law), what is the problem?

Christopher McElhinney said...

In the UK there would only be one reason they would out a 67 yr old in jail for tax evasion especially if he could payup more than enough of the out standing money,-If he has a previous record.
It seems very harsh to put a first time offender in jail for yrs at 67?
So unless Odd has commited and been charged for previous this has got to be over the top.
Has anyone seen "Escape From Alcatraz?"
why would you stop someone from painting in prison,I mean in the UK the guards tollerate people injecting heroin to keep them docile.
If Odd is really guilty surely the thing to do is harshly punish him finacially to be seen to be diong the right thing in the eyes of the general public,but I am unable to pass judgment on that point over the internet

Amelia Murdock said...

Isn't this the country that has a max prison stay of like 21 years for serial killers? Insanity. Your explanation really sheds light on the issue for me. The media does not say anything like this! They just make him look so bad. Poor guy.

Craig Banholzer said...

To anonymous: Re: "EU elite." Norway is not an EU member country.

Anonymous said...

Odd Nerdrum is one of the sickest artist I have ever seen. He should have been sentenced to prison for taking art lovers to his spiritually bankrupt world where fear, anxiety, and filth rule the day.Taking the human experience to a higher level? I think not.Quite the opposite.It was telling indeed that this "master" would produce works that melted in warm light! Any serious artist knows using tiny glass beads mixed with oil paint is how one retains texture after drying to avoid just this kind of problem. Only an idiot would use wax exclusively.Good riddance.

New York City said...

Anonymous,
Given your moralistic stand, I would have to ask you one question: how does one know true faith unless it is tested? For those who are looking, Odd Nerdrum's work exhibits both the questioning and the inspiration to lift humanity higher.

As for the "wax"... mastic is a resin derived from trees. It is not a form of wax.

Richard Duncan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.