Artist Odd Nerdrum lost his appeal in Norwegian courts this week and, in a strange twist of fate, he will receive an even longer jail sentence than the one he was appealing. Nerdrum, who is convicted of tax evasion, now faces 34 months in prison.

Odd Nerdrum’s “Self Portrait as Criminal” (via

In a controversial interview with a Swedish TV station last November [posted above], Nerdrum has labeled himself the “first artpolitical prisoner in Europe,” and compares his plight to Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

The 68-year-old artist was convicted in a Norwegian appeals court for tax evasion on Wednesday, June 27. The case revolves around the status of a number of foregin bank accounts that the government claims were not accounted for and taxed properly.

As part of his sentence, according CNN iReport, Nerdrum “would not be allowed to paint in prison, as it would be considered a commercial activity.”

It’s difficult to understand the nature of the case but Nerdrum’s claims of being persecuted by the Norwegian state seem rather incredible to outside observers, who are not accustomed to hearing such claims against that Scandinavian country. Some may also be leery of Nerdrum’s claims considering the artist has been quoted as saying that the Norwegian state had been “out to get him” since he debuted as an artist.

There is a website, Free Odd Nerdrum, that contains more information about the artist and his battle with the Norwegian authories. The site includes his side of the tax accusations, along with figures and explanations.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

8 replies on “Artist Denied Right to Paint in Prison”

  1. Doesn’t letting that Varg Vikernes guy record a Burzum album in prison set some kind of legal precident for letting gross creeps keep making their nonsense in the pokey?

    1. Well, lets make sure to point out that Nerdrum was convicted of tax evasion. Vikernes murdered someone.

      1. True; if Varg was allowed to keep murdering people in prison the analogy would be more apt.

  2. don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. the guy knew what he was doing, and knew it was against the law.

    though I definitely agree with Liam. but i doubt varg makes as much money with his albums as odd does on one painting.

    1. You obviously didn’t read the court rulings! It agrees that he did pay his taxes!
      They want money out of the years he lived in Iceland (and payed taxes there), and claim an US account managed by him and his gallery (Forum) to refund the works that had been done with a perishable medium, was hidden money. Last time I checked the USA was not Cayman Islands…

  3. This artist does not produce “POLITICAL” art. He has simply politicised his tax problem. He has a huge EGO and once described himself as being a “better painter than Rembrandt” to which the audience roared with laughter. His claims of being persecuted like Ai We Wei are equally laughable. He got pinched by the tax man and is crying about it.

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