Schröder's artist admits naked prostitute and cocaine parties

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The Independent Online

A renowned German artist commissioned to paint Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's official portrait yesterday admitted having pornographic film and cocaine parties with prostitutes.

A renowned German artist commissioned to paint Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's official portrait yesterday admitted having pornographic film and cocaine parties with prostitutes.

Jörg Immendorff, 59, told a court in Düsseldorf he had been naked with nine prostitutes from the city's red-light district in a hotel suite last year and he had cocaine. "I admit to everything of which I am accused," Mr Immendorff's lawyer said in a statement read to the court at the opening of his trial. "But I was playing out my erotic fantasies and it never came to sex."

Last August, police discovered Mr Immendorff lying naked on a bed, surrounded by nine prostitutes, in the suite at Düsseldorf's Steigenberger hotel. In a Versace ashtray on a bedside table, and in the artists' atelier nearby, 21.6 grammes of cocaine were found. Officers had been tipped off by a prostitute who had apparently been rejected.

The artist, who looked pale and nervous, admitted holding 27 other similar cocaine parties over 30 months. The pornographic films and drink was part of the standard repertoire, state prosecutors said. Police said the hotel bill for the parties totalled €40,000 (£30,000).

Mr Immendorff is charged with having drugs and encouraging the women to partake. He faces being stripped of his professorship at Düsseldorf arts academy, from which he was suspended last year. If convicted, he could be sentenced to a a year in prison.

Yesterday, the artist said he had begun taking cocaine more than 10 years ago. After doctors told him in 1998 he had an incurable nervous disorder, he used cocaine to alleviate dire panic attacks. "I had extreme bouts of fear which occurred sporadically and I tried somehow to get a grip on them," he told the court. "I regret my actions and I am already suffering the consequences."

Mr Immendorff belongs to a coterie of prominent German artists and intellectuals befriended by Chancellor Schröder. He gained notoriety in the late 1970s with his most famous work, Café Deutschland which takes Germany's then post-war division as its main theme. He is holder of the Mexico's $250,000 Marco arts prize, biggest such award in the world.

Three years ago, the former left-wing Maoist activist's marriage to the Bulgarian, Oda Jaune, one of his students who is some 30 years his junior, was given widespread coverage in the German media. The self-styled "painter prince" also used to own a fashionable bar in Hamburg's red light district.

Mr Immendorff was commissioned to paint Mr Schröder's official portrait last year. The work, which still has to be completed, is to hang alongside the portraits of other post-war German chancellors that line the walls of the Berlin Chancellory. Mr Schröder's office said no decision had been taken about whether the artist would retain his commission.

Last year, the artist accompanied the Chancellor on a visit to St Petersburg for the official opening of the city's reconstructed 18th-century Amber Room, looted by the Nazis and believed destroyed.Mr Immendorff presented the city with one of his avant garde sculptures, a massively outsized human nose. It is called The Nose.

A court verdict is expected next month.

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