Saturday, June 30, 2012

Odd Nerdrum: Art Political Prisoner

Image courtesy of Matthew D. Innis
Sign the Petition to Free Odd Nerdrum!

It is with a heavy heart that I tell you of the escalating persecution of my dear friend and mentor.
A man who has demonstrated his honor, has freely given his knowledge to thousands of students, has been a champion for human empathy and integrity, who generously gave my wife and I a chance to begin our lives anew when we lost everything in the great recession... this man is the first political prisoner in Europe since World War II. To some, this statement may be not be surprising, to others it may seem shocking. It may at first seem an exaggeration, but I ask you only to honestly consider the facts of the case and come to your own conclusion.

Odd Nerdrum has been given an increased sentence of two years ten months by the Norwegian Appeals court concerning allegations of gross tax fraud.
He will not be allowed to paint in prison, as this is considered a "commercial activity". I can only conclude that the reason for his increased sentence is punitive - a retaliation for Nerdrum appealing the verdict of the district court back in August 2011.

Let me be clear: Nerdrum paid his taxes many years before the court case. This was acknowledged by the court and verified by the court transcript. The charge against him is that he intentionally hid money in a U.S. bank account for which the court provided no evidence, and an Austrian bank box. This claim is absolutely ridiculous! What kind of idiot would hide money in plain sight? Nerdrum, by his own statement, is not mathematically inclined, but he is certainly no idiot. Why wouldn't he hide money in a Swiss bank account, or the Cayman Islands where no one would find it? This is one glaring example of the kind of faulty logic used by the court. (This can be verified by reading the court transcript in either Norwegian or English available on

It's profoundly important to point out that Nerdrum's paintings are not merely a commercial activity, they are an exercise in freedom of speech. Nerdrum has been known for challenging the status quo for decades with his paintings and statements; the very nature of his work contradicts the dominant Norwegian art world (largely funded by the Norwegian Government), and even the "social democratic" policies of the ruling Norwegian Labor party (see faceless society video below). He stands out as an individual, questions authority, has been censored on television for directly criticizing the Labor Party, who also dominates the Norwegian Judicial system. As such, the court's attempt to silence him amounts to nothing less than the repression of political speech.

What appears at first to be a run of the mill tax evasion, soon reveals itself to the inquisitive to be nothing less than political persecution and a violation of human rights. The Norwegian Appeals court has taken it upon themselves to stifle the freedom of speech. Moreover, they have convicted a man based upon conjecture, inflated numbers, and faulty logic, and without concrete evidence.

Innocence until proven guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt, is a basic premise for any just court.

And both the Norwegian district and the appeals courts have violated this premise.

It may or may not surprise you that the Norwegian judicial system has been convicted multiple times by the European Court of Human Rights for violating the principle of "Innocent until proven guilty".

It also seems necessary, in order to truly understand the atmosphere, to mention the biases against Nerdrum in the media. While Norway was still reeling from the July 22, 2011 domestic terrorist attack, a major Norwegian newspaper ran a story about finding explosives on farms. They used an image of Nerdrum's farm as an example. When the Nerdrum family complained, they said "oops, we're sorry". But I find it incredibly hard to believe this was a mistake Nerdrum is a celebrity in Norway - one doesn't accidentally insinuate that Graceland is a den for terrorists! This is only one example of the subliminal suggestions rampant in the Norwegian press. (see

The Nerdrum Affair has been a confusing case for many people. Different sources seem to give different numbers: even the courts can't seem to agree with the IRS or each other. So, I've taken it upon myself to collect and condense what I view to be the pertinent information all in one place. I've given you my opinion, but ultimately, you'll have to come to your own conclusion.

The Huffington Post: An Update and Commentary on Odd Nerdrum's Harsh Prison Sentence

CNN ireport: Artist Denied the Right to Paint

An Odd Fact or Two

(From the article below: Forum Gallery, as the exclusive gallery for Nerdrum worldwide, has sold paintings worth of $1,486,000. This number has been confirmed by American Tax Authorities, says Nerdrum's defence lawyer Berg. This is way below the $2,349,000 Odd has been sentenced for evading).

Here you can find a copy of the verdict from the district court as well as much more information: 

My original post from last August:
Odd Nerdrum Sentenced to Two Years in Prison

Odd Nerdrum Censored on Television:

A little background on Norwegian Politics.

Sign the Petition to Free Odd Nerdrum!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks for your passion on this subject, richard. here's hoping this situation does not force an end to what has been a strange, evocative, and iconoclastic career in paint... one wonders how he could survive nearly 3 years without painting...