- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 24, 2003

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH

BERLIN — A leading German artist, befriended by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and commissioned to paint his official portrait, is at the center of a scandal after being caught serving as host of a cocaine party with nine prostitutes.

Joerg Immendorf, a controversial expressionist painter, was arrested last week after a police raid on his suite at Dusseldorf’s five-star Steigenberger hotel. They discovered the 58-year-old artist naked with the prostitutes, as well as 11 grams of cocaine — just more than a third of an ounce — in a Versace ashtray on the bedside table.

“The drug was ready for consumption. It was drawn up in ‘lines’ on a tray,” said Johannes Mocken, the Dusseldorf state prosecutor who is preparing to bring charges against Mr. Immendorf.

The police, who apparently had been tipped off by a prostitute who had not been invited to the party, found an additional 10.6 grams of the drug in Mr. Immendorf’s studio nearby.

Mr. Mocken said the painter had confessed to holding similar parties at the hotel for more than two and a half years. “The pattern was the same,” he said. “Immendorf was always the only man present. He was always accompanied by several prostitutes and there was always cocaine, although the women deny he gave the drug to them.”

Lurid newspaper reports of the arrest have scandalized Germany, and put a question mark over Mr. Schroeder’s decision to engage Mr. Immendorf to paint the portrait that will hang alongside those of other postwar chancellors in the Berlin Chancellery.

Mr. Immendorf refused to comment on the raid, but friends say he is “very frightened” of being victimized by the media.

The artist, a professor at Dusseldorf’s Academy of Arts, rose to prominence in the 1970s as one of the Jungen Wilden (young wild ones) group of artists.

A former Maoist activist who also owned a well-known bar in Hamburg’s red-light district, he is best known for his painting Cafe Deutschland, which uses Germany’s postwar division as its main subject. He attracted widespread media coverage two years ago when he married one of his students, Oda Jaune, who is 30 years younger than him.

Mr. Immendorf’s rebel image attracted the attention of Mr. Schroeder, who has made a habit of entertaining left-wing artists, writers and intellectuals since he was first elected five years ago.

Earlier this year, Mr. Schroeder and Mr. Immendorf appeared together in St. Petersburg for the official opening of the city’s reconstructed 18th-century “Amber Room,” which was stolen by the Nazis during World War II.

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