Norwegian Minister Resolves Ongoing Dispute Between Bjarne Melgaard and Customs

After a three-month battle between Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard and customs officials, who confiscated sixteen of his paintings after determining that they were “not art,” finance minister Siv Jensen intervened, José da Silva of the Art Newspaper reports.

The works were being sent from the artist’s New York studio to a gallery in Oslo when they were seized by the authorities at Gardermoen Airport. Gard Eiklid of Oslo’s Rod Bianco Gallery, who represents the artist, said, “Customs argued that part of the painting is printed, and therefore must be a printed object similar to a poster.” He added, “It's been an absurd fight where we had to ‘prove’ that Melgaard’s paintings are art.”

In Norway, artworks are subject to a value-added-tax exemption. After customs officials declared the works did not qualify as art since they were not entirely “executed by hand,” they refused to return the canvases until Melgaard paid a $153,000 tax. Jensen said that due to new legislation passed on November 15, Melgaard’s paintings were reassessed, determined to be art, and released to the artist yesterday.