Showing posts with label HIldebrand Gurlitt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label HIldebrand Gurlitt. Show all posts

February 2, 2017

Foreshadowing for the Cornelius Gurlitt Case?

By: Mairead McAuliffe

On January 13, 2017 a Frankfurt District Court confirmed the legal use of Germany's statute-of-limitation in a Holocaust art restitution case, thereby muting the need for an exacting provenance of the artwork in question. This article questions what this decision indicates for other restitution cases in Germany, specifically the Cornelius Gurlitt case. This piece also explores possible legal amendments to current laws according to Marc Masurovsky*, co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project.    

In February 2012, German police and customs officials executed a warrant to search Cornelius Gurlitt's apartment located in Munich. Inside the apartment, officials discovered 121 framed and 1,285 unframed artworks by artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Renoir and Chagall. It was a collection that could be valued at more than a billion dollars. Gurlitt was first placed on a customs watch list in 2010, appearing suspicious to the officials that boarded his train crossing the Lindau border. Gurlitt remained largely untraceable, investigators found no trace of a state pension, health insurance, tax and employment records, or bank accounts. Yet, his name raised some questions with investigators. Cornelius Gurlitt shared a name with Hildebrand Gurlitt, a known art curator under the Third Reich. 

The relation was confirmed in December 2011, when Gurlitt surfaced after selling one of Max Beckmann's masterpieces, The Lion Tamer. Gurlitt split the proceeds of the sale with the heirs of the Jewish art dealer, Alfred Flechtheim, who, as Gurlitt acknowledged, sold the piece under duress to his father in 1934. It was then that authorities acted on the search warrant issued a few months prior, on the grounds of suspected tax evasion and embezzlement, and discovered the trove of art. 

For the next three days, officials packaged and moved the artworks out of Gurlitt's apartment to a customs warehouse in Garching. The discovery was kept from the press as public knowledge of Gurlitt's collection would have sparked mass outcry and an inundation of claims to the art. However, the covert case was exposed on November 4, 2013 when the German newsweekly, Focus, published the story on their front page. The expected firestorm ensued as restitution activists demanded the publishing of the art pieces to allow Holocaust decedents to lay claim to the looted works. 

German restitution laws are, quite frankly, unsympathetic to those who seek reprisal of Nazi looted artworks. Germany did sign the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, which states that museums and other public institutions should return such works to their rightful owners. However, compliance is voluntary and excludes cases in which private citizens hold the pieces – as is the case with Cornelius Gurlitt. Furthermore, Germany enforces a 30-year statute of limitations on making claims to stolen property, thereby calling into question the ability of heirs to lay claim to pieces from Gurlitt's collection. 

Since the discovery, efforts have been made to conduct and complete a provenance trace for the 1,406 artworks found in Gurlitt's apartment. However, despite the possibility of solid, traceable provenance, under German law, there is no mandate to return the artworks to their original owners, or heirs. In November, 2013, the newly appointed Bavarian Minister of Justice, Winifried Bausback, initiated legislation to revise the statute-of-limitation law such that heirs to looted art could reclaim their familial property. Currently, the law is not automatically invoked, the defendant must expressly invoke the limitation in order to protect against the claim of the owner. The proposed legislation would install a two-pronged defense that the owner can employ to proceed with the requisition, despite the law's invocation. The first requirement would be that the property must have been lost in a legal sense. The second requirement would mandate that only the true possessor can rely on the statute, therefore, a bad faith possessor would not be able to invoke the statute and legal action can proceed. Such legislation would obviously aid in the return of looted works to their correct owner. 

Yet, while the status of the Bavarian Minister's legislative initiative is unknown, the District Court in Frankfurt recently handed down a decision that could have consequences for the Gurlitt case specifically, and other restitution cases, more generally. In Frankfurt, an heir of Robert Graetz, a Jewish textile manufacturer and art collector, brought a claim against the current owner of a Max Pechstein painting, which he believes Robert was required to forcefully sell prior his family's deportation to Auschwitz. The defendant invoked the statute-of-limitation and challenged this alleged provenance. The Frankfurt court ruled that the expired 30-year limitation took precedent over the need for an exacting provenance, thus the Graetz estate has no claim to the painting. This decision, in essence, upholds Germany's statute-of-limitation in regards to artworks.   

When asked about this recent decision, Marc Masurovsky, the co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP), said that this decision reflects a "traditional legal defense against restitution claims." However, he stresses that this decision should "in no way" prevent the drafting of an exacting provenance in such cases. He believes that this decision highlights a need for the "passage of stricter laws governing provenance," such adjustments may include setting "sufficient standards whereby objects with no provenance should not be introduced into the marketplace, or offered to museums." Instead, Masurovsky believes that such objects should, ideally, not be "traded, sold, bought, displayed, loaned, borrowed or donated." Yet, he acknowledges that this is "not even remotely possible to enforce," since most objects in the art market fall into these categories and the demand for a full provenance would kill the industry. Therefore, Masurovsky believes that new standards should be developed that "clearly define an acceptable provenance," in other words, outline what minimal criteria should be met in order for an object to be lawfully moved in the market. Masurovsky further believes that Germany, because of its history, "carries an unusual responsibility, an ethical burden if you will, to 'do what is right'" and initiate changes to its current laws. Currently, the German courts allow the statute-of-limitations to function as a "technical defense" or "convenient tool" which he believes allows defendants to "debunk and kill a claimant's request for restitution," as seen in the Graetz case. However, for Marc, all countries "regardless of their historical relationship with the Nazi/Fascist years, the Holocaust and WWII, should enact laws that protect victims of cultural plunder, that raise the ethical bar in the art market."  

Regarding the Gurlitt case specifically, Masurovsky confirms that the artworks discovered in Gurlitt's apartment are in the custody of the German government, yet, the entire collection was transferred to the Kunstmuseum in Bern, Switzerland in accordance with Gurlitt's last will. Gurlitt died on May 6, 2014 in Munich. However,  the special task force “Schwabinger Kunstfund”  processing the trove had not yet finished its restitution-based provenance research and so a compromise was made between the Kunst and the executors of Gurlitt's will. According to Masurovsky, any object deemed to be "clean" would be instantly transferred to Bern, while objects requiring additional research would remain with the German Task Force as they ascertain whether any evidence of plunder exists and if there is the possibility of identifying the plundered owners. Theoretically, this process is set to conclude in 2020, given the large number of works. This compromise is meant to ensure that only "clean" artworks end up in the Kunst. 

In accordance with the compromise, the Kunstmuseum Bern now owns the "clean" works, a reality that worries HARP. Since it is now the responsibility of the museum to conduct a more exacting provenance for these items, Marc argues that "how well Bern will do this job is pure conjecture." The fear, according to my interviews with Masurovsky is that un-restituted objects are indeed part of the hoard in Bern's possession, and their location in Switzerland, a country that "leaves no legal room for consideration of restitution for looted objects," will prevent the initiation of claims to the artworks. 

In sum, it appears that German courts are bowing to precedent in regards to restitution cases, allowing the statute-of-limitation to be used as a defense. Only time will tell if such precedent will be followed or ignored, in cases such as the Gurlitt case, as families continue to lay claim to what they believe has been wrongfully taken from them. 


Editor’s postscript:  The Kunstmuseum Bern obtained exclusive jurisdiction over the 238 (arguably more significant) artworks that were seized in Gurlitt’s house in Salzburg (Aigen), Austria in February 2014. As the Germin remit does not extend to property held in Austria, these artworks have their own separate inventory and are the exclusive province of Bern regarding the research into their past ownership. ARCA hopes that these works will undergo the same moral and ethical due diligence required of the Munich grouping.


* In 2017 Marc Masurovsky will be teaching provenance research training as part of ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection, as well as a short course affiliated with ARCA's June conference. 

November 21, 2014

Editorial Essay on the Kunstmuseum Bern's Upcoming Decision on Whether to Accept the Gurlitt Collection

By Judge Arthur Tompkins

It appears that on Monday 24 November (or thereabouts) we will know whether the Kunstmuseum Bern will take on the Gurlitt collection. In an article in the New York Times on 20 November ("Nazi-Era Art Collection Appears to Find a Home" by Melissa Eddy), a number of sources are cited as expressing confidence that the Kunstmuseum will indeed accept Cornelius Gurlitt’s unexpected bequest made public at the time of his death in May this year: 
“Sources ... said it was likely that the board members [of the Kunstmuseum Bern] would gather in Switzerland on Saturday to decide on Mr Gurlitt’s gift. Stuart E. Eizenstadt ... now special adviser on Holocaust issues to Secretary of State John Kerry, said Thursday that it was his understanding that the museum would accept the offer.”
Image Credit
The magnitude of the challenges that will come with the collection should not be underestimated.  As the NYT article notes, many of the works are likely to be “badly in need of restoration”, and furthermore the resources required to, as the Kunstmuseum Bern will most likely have to do, determine the provenance of each item in the collection, will be significant.

In an open letter I sent to the Trustees of the Kunstmuseum Bern back in June published on ARCA’s Blog here where I suggested:
What should happen, and immediately after the acceptance of the inheritance, is the creation by the Kunstmuseum Bern of an independent, well-resourced international tribunal to determine the fate of each and every one of the many art works. The tribunal itself should consist of international jurists and others with a range of art-crime related skills, assisted by a staff of independent provenance researchers, cataloguers, art and general historians, claimant advocates, and dispute resolution specialists.

After identifying each art work, promulgating identifying and other characteristics widely, and proactively inviting and assisting claimant contact with the tribunal, the tribunal should resolve the fate of each art work by employing first a range of appropriate dispute resolution processes so as to reach an agreed, just and fair solution. Failing agreement, the tribunal should determine each individual case by giving due weight and recognition both to the relevant legal factors, but also and crucially to the moral aspects as well.

A transparent and just process as outlined would avoid heaping future injustice on the top of past wrongs. It would propel the Kunstmuseum Bern to the forefront of efforts to undo some of the great harms done 70 years ago, amid the chaos and confusion of war.
The NYT article quotes similar sentiments as being expressed by an attorney for Mr David Toren, an 89-year-old descendant of the Jewish industrialist David Friedmann, who has a strong claim to Max Liebermann's "Two Riders on the Beach,":
“ ... this presents a real opportunity for the museum to raise its international profile by doing the right thing with regard to the portion of the collection that was stolen by the Nazis.”
There is clearly more to come on this continuing story early next week.

Read the full New York Times article here.

May 7, 2014

Cornelius Gurlitt Art Collection: Vanity Fair's Alex Shoumatoff Reported on the Case Last Month

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Cornelius Gurlitt had artwork at both his apartment in the Schwabing neighborhood of Munich and a residence in Saltzburg. In November 2013, the Augsburg state prosecutor described the 1,406 artworks (121 framed, 1,285 unframed) found February 2012 in Gurlitt's Schwabing apartment as oil paintings, drawings, and prints from artists such as Matisse, Marc Chagall, Otto Dix, and Max Liebermann. In March 2014, Gurlitt's attorney said that of 236 artworks in Gurlitt's Saltzburg home, of which 39 were oil paintings, about 7 had been done by Cornelius' Gurlitt's grandfather Louis.

The cover of the April 2014 issue of Vanity Fair includes the headline: "Uncovering a $1 Billion Nazi Art Stash: Not in 1945 -- Now! by Alex Shoumatoff p. 174." Online, Shoumatoff's article is under "The Devil and the Art Dealer". Shoumatoff, a contributing editor for Vanity Fair and a former writer for The Washington Post and The New Yorker, describes in his 13-page article (including photographs) Gurlitt's 'trove' as 'worth more than a billion dollars'.

Shoumatoff describes how the December 2011 sale by Cornelius Gurlitt of Max Beckmann's "The Lion Tamer", of which the heirs of Jewish art dealer Alfred Flechtheim received 40% of the proceeds and an admission from Cornelius Gurlitt that "the Beckmann had been sold under duress by Flechtheim in 1934 to his father, Hildebrand Gurlitt. This bombshell gave traction to the government's suspicion that there might be more art in Gurlitt's apartment."

After Hildebrand Gurlitt -- himself one-quarter Jewish -- opened an art gallery in Hamburg after Hitler appointment as Chancellor in 1933, Gurlitt acquired 'forbidden art at bargain prices from Jews fleeing the country or needing money to pay the devastating capital-flight tax and, later, the Jewish wealthy levy', Shoumatoff wrote, and was later appointed to Goebbels' Commission for the Exploitation of Degenerate Art, whose job it was to sell degenerate (as defined by the Nazis) art abroad: 'Hildebrand was permitted to acquire degenerate artworks himself, as long as he paid for them in hard foreign currency, an opportunity that he took advantage of.'

You can read the rest of the article to find out what Soumatoff reports on Gurlitt's activities in Nazi-occupied Paris and the investigation 70 years later into the artwork held by Hildebrand's son.

Gurlitt Art Collection: Cornelius Gurlitt's wishes regarding "degenerate art" in his collection

The website defending Cornelius Gurlitt,, provides the art collector's position which includes his stated belief that:
he had inherited a collection from his father that predominantly consisted of so-called degenerate art from former German Reich property in public collections and museums. Cornelius Gurlitt was not aware that his collection also includes a few works that today can be qualified as looted art. After the rightful return of the entire collection by the Augsburg public prosecutors and the customs authorities, he is prepared to review and arrive at fair solutions together with the claimants for those works that are suspected of being looted art in such instances where qualified, documented, and justified claims for their return are asserted by heirs of Jewish of persecution and where morally compelling grounds exist. This voluntary, morally driven commitment on the part of Cornelius Gurlitt applies to only very few works in the collection from the “Schwabing art discovery,” according to current information at most 3% of the 1,280 confiscated works. 
Several German museums have already made offers to repurchase the works in the collection considered “degenerate” art. Cornelius Gurlitt is quite willing to carefully consider such offers for repurchase, providing they correspond with the market value of the works in question and the legal and factual situation. This approach is in keeping with the historic truth that Dr. Hildebrand Gurlitt legally acquired by way of purchase or trade from the German Reich the works that had been confiscated as “degenerate” art. Due to his father’s secured acquisition of title to the “degenerate” art, no alternatives other than repurchase through German museums come under consideration. Cornelius Gurlitt will gladly review appropriate repurchase offers made by German museums for “degenerate” art.
Cynthia Saltzman discussed the lack of remedies for German museums who had their collections raided by the Nazis in her book, Portrait of Dr. Gachet: The Story of a van Gogh Masterpiece (Viking, 1998). For example, the Nazis forcibly took "Dr. Gachet from a city museum in Frankfurt and years later, when the portrait reappeared at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Frankfurt officials found out that they had no legal claim to recover their painting (the book was reviewed in The New York Times here and includes specific details about the painting's journey).

Gurlitt Art Collection: Cornelius Gurlitt, 81, dies following convalescing from heart surgery; legal counsel announces end of investigation

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Today legal counsel for Cornelius Gurlitt announced the death of their client -- and the end of the investigation -- on the website created a few months ago in defense of allegations that paintings belonging to the 81-year-old had been stolen from Jewish families by the Nazis. According to, Herr Gurlitt had been in the care of a doctor following heart surgery when he requested that he be able to return to his apartment in Schwabing:
With the death of Cornelius Gurlitt end both the court-ordered care, as well as the investigation. Our sympathy goes to the family of the deceased.
Berlin's Focus Magazine reported in early November that two years ago Bavarian customs (Bayerische Zollfahnder) discovered 1,500 works by artists such as Picasso, Chagall and Matisse -- believed to have been confiscated during the Third Reich -- amongst the trash in the apartment of 80-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of art historian and dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt (images of the article can be found here and here). The granddaughter of Parisian art dealer Paul Rosenberg told CNN she had just heard about the discovering of reputedly stolen art. The New York Times reported on the 'uproar in the art world.' Holocaust-looted art restitution experts were interviewed as to the significance of the discovery. Prosecutors held a press conference to explain the case. published information obtained when Hildebrand Gurlitt was interviewed by the Allies after WWII. NPR did a segment on the questions raised by the Gurlitt art collection. Reuters described Cornelius Gurlitt as a tragic figure. Germany published some of the art collection online, set up a committee to investigate claims, and agreed to publicize the works. Cornelius Gurlitt, described as a mysterious recluse, is found shopping near his apartment. Curlitt's art collection, flagged because of the association with Hildebrand Gurlitt, is classified under an art fund named after the neighborhood in which the art was discovered in Munich. Gurlitt's artworks are posted on the Lost Art Internet Database. De Spiegel describes the 'Phantom Collector'. Cornelius Gurlitt has first interview. A 1955 essay by Hildebrand Gurlitt on his art collection is dug up. Maybe art will be returned to Cornelius Gurlitt. About that empathy. 'Dirty little secret'. Legal counsel retained. Restitution plans. Cornelius agrees to provenance research and his collection is returned.

April 24, 2014

Gurlitt Art Collection: Opinion: "What to do with the Munich Art Trove?"

by Judge Arthur Tompkins

The missteps by the German federal and state authorities continue, as they try but so far fail properly to deal with the many art works known variously as the Munich Art Trove, the Schwabing Art Trove, or the Gurlitt Art hoard (“Modern Art as Nazi Plunder”, The New York Times, April 14; “Gurlitt art confiscation ends”, The Art Newspaper, April 9, 2014). 

To recap: In March 2012 Bavarian tax authorities stumble on over 1400 works of art in a nondescript Munich flat, owned by Cornelius Gurlitt, the reclusive son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, a Nazi-era German art dealer. They sit on the news for a year and a half until, in November 2013, German media break the news to a stunned world and, increasingly, an angry and frustrated group of widely dispersed possible claimants. Initially, stonewalling and bluster and a dismissively bureaucratic attitude are on display, until the intervention of Federal authorities leads to the reluctant acknowledgement that this is not just another local tax evasion case. But the release of details of the art works continues to be frustratingly slow and incomplete.

Visits to other homes owned by Mr. Gurlitt reveal even more art works, some in deteriorated condition, amid both ongoing calls for much greater openness in deciding just what would happen to the art works, and questions about the legality of the seizure of the works by the Bavarian authorities. 

Eventually, a multinational Task Force to investigate the provenance of the art works is announced by the German Government. Potential problems with Nazi-era laws, still on the statute books in Germany, loom, as does the absence from Germany’s statute books of any law requiring the return of Nazi-era looted art.

Now comes further disquieting news: The German Government has announced a deal, apparently negotiated with Mr. Gurlitt’s legal guardian, his defense counsel and the Bavarian authorities, (but without it seems the involvement or indeed knowledge of any representatives of the dispossessed), “to allow provenance research on a voluntary basis once the works are released from police custody.” But the Task Force will be up against an arbitrary one year deadline, after which provenance research will continue, it seems, only at Mr. Gurlitt’s pleasure. One short year to investigate and decide what should happen to over 1500 individual art works, many of which had been acquired by a dubious art dealer in times of chaos and circumstances of disaster 70 years ago, that had been hidden for decades with no whisper of their continued existence, and the details (and even images) of which are, even today, still incomplete. One year? Really?

And, on the same day, comes word that an unidentified rival claim to Matisse’s “Woman Sitting in Armchair” has come forward, jeopardizing negotiations to return that one painting to the heirs of French art dealer Paul Rosenberg just as an agreement to return the painting seemed close. And that is only one painting, albeit one with an uncharacteristically clear and well-established provenance. If there are problems with the Matisse, in a relatively straightforward case, what is to be the fate of the very many others where the records are missing or incomplete or inconsistent, the evidence patchy or confused or inconclusive, and the path to a resolution likely to prove labyrinthine?

The German government needs to accept that this mess is not a German tangle to unravel. It is unavoidably an international one. The creation of the Task Force was a partial recognition of that, but the continuing and serial missteps and errors, and the persistent inability or reluctance to be completely open about what is happening on the part of both the Bavarian and German Federal authorities, and now the imposition of an arbitrary and unrealistic deadline, demonstrate that, for whatever reason, the complexity of the truly international nature of the multi-faceted challenges presented by these art works eludes them.

What should happen, and quickly, is the creation of an independent, well-resourced ad-hoc international tribunal to determine the fate of each and every one of the many art works recovered. The Tribunal itself should consist of international jurists and others with a range of art-crime related skills, assisted by a staff of independent provenance researchers, art and general historians, claimant advocates, and dispute resolution specialists.

Secondly, that tribunal should be given the job, by German legislation and international treaty working in tandem, of resolving the fate of each art work by employing first a range of dispute resolution processes. If those processes do not result in an agreed just and fair solution, then the Tribunal should have the jurisdiction to decide each case by giving due weight and recognition to the moral aspects of each case, in addition to relevant legal factors. 70 years on, much relevant evidence, even if it once existed, is gone. All contemporary witnesses to Hildebrand Gurlitt’s activities are dead. Many records and documents that might once have existed have been lost or mislaid or destroyed in the chaos of wartime and post-war Europe. In those circumstances, to compel sometimes inadequately resourced claimants onto a strictly legal battlefield, hedged about with evidential and procedural constraints within the artificially narrow construct of a sovereign state’s domestic legal system, and then to require them to fight a legal battle against that same sovereign state, will likely pile future injustice on the top of past wrongs.

The December 1998 Washington Principles, to which Germany is a signatory, demand identification of looted art, open and accessible records, the public dissemination of art proactively to seek out pre-War owners or heirs, and the deploying of resources and personnel. A “just and fair” solution must actively be sought. Germany has been, at best, a cautious adopter of these principles. Fifteen years on, these 1500 art works give Germany the opportunity to cut this Gordian knot. Such an approach is not unprecedented. The various threads already exist, in both the looted art arena and elsewhere. All that is required is the will and the leadership simply to do it. 

Judge Arthur Tompkins is a trial Judge from Wellington, New Zealand. He teaches Art in War each year as part of the Postgraduate Certificate in Art Crimes Studies offered by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (, in Umbria, Italy.

April 19, 2014

Gurlitt Art Collection: NYT's "A Hidden Art Trove and a Lost Relative" -- another artist that may be in the collection alongside the famous Matisses and Monets

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Catherine Hickley reports April 18 in The New York Times in "A Hidden Art Trove and a Lost Relative" on the current exhibition in Germany of work by the aunt of Cornelius Gurlitt, the art collector and son of Hildebrand Gurlitt who was an active art dealer during and after the Third Reich. The artist Cornelia Gurlitt was the sister of Hildebrand. Ms. Hickley reports:
Born in 1890, Ms. Gurlitt was the elder sister of Hildebrand Gurlitt, a dealer who bought art for Adolf Hitler’s planned “Führermuseum” and acquired the cache of more than 1,200 works found in his son’s apartment. Ms. Gurlitt’s work is virtually unknown — partly because much of it is thought to have been hidden for decades in her nephew’s home, alongside the Matisses, Monets and Munchs. Those works remain out of public reach for now. Yet some of Ms. Gurlitt’s melancholy, Expressionist images, many of them lithographs, did find their way into the possession of friends and family members.

March 28, 2014

Gurlitt Art Collection: Cornelius Gurlitt's legal counsel announces restitution plans

On March 26, Cornelius Gurlitt's legal counsel announced in a press release his client's plans to return "stolen" works to claimants [boldface and italics added by ARCAblog editor]:
Salzburg portion of the Cornelius Gurlitt collection is larger than at first thought - 238 works of art have been secured - first work justifiably suspected of being Nazi-looted art about to be returned - attorney Dr. Hannes Hartung discharged 
Munich/Salzburg, March 26, 2014. The Salzburg portion of the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt is more extensive than at first thought. It encompasses 238 works of art, including 39 oil paintings. 
Among the 39 oil paintings from the Salzburg portion of the collection, seven are by landscape painter Louis Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt's grandfather, who died as long ago as 1897. Other oil paintings and watercolors were painted by artists including Monet, Corot, Renoir, Manet, Courbet, Pissaro, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Liebermann, Cézanne, and Nolde. However, by far the largest portion of the Salzburg collection consists of drawings (by artists including Picasso and Munch). The Salzburg collection, which has since been removed from Cornelius Gurlitt's Salzburg home, also includes silver vessels, ceramic bowls, and bronze, marble, and iron sculptures (including by Rodin). All works of art are being stored in a secure location and where required are currently being professionally processed and accurately documented by restorers. 
As a next step in dealing with the Salzburg portion of the Gurlitt collection, renowned international experts will be hired to conduct provenance research in order to conclusively establish the origin of the paintings. 
"If we should succeed with this task, we will continue to pursue this approach on our own initiative. One thing is certain: we will present the results of our research to the public so that they can be verified and any claimants can come forward," explains Christoph Edel, Cornelius Gurlitt's legal guardian. 
Additional inspections of the Salzburg house led to the discovery of additional works of art 
During the inspection of the house in Salzburg on February 10, 2014, with the approval of Cornelius Gurlitt, more than 60 works were located and brought to a secure location to prevent the possibility of burglary and theft at the unoccupied house. Most of these works are oil paintings, some of them quite large. In later visits to the house on February 24 and 28, 2014, above all for the purpose of removing bulky and worthless items from both levels, a number of artworks were found in a previously inaccessible portion of the old house and were subsequently removed. These, too, were brought to the secure warehouse where the other works are already being stored. 
First work from Schwabing portion of the collection about to be returned 
"If the works in Salzburg or Schwabing should be justifiably suspected of being Nazi-looted art, please give them back to their Jewish owners." This is what Cornelius Gurlitt instructed his court-appointed guardian, Christoph Edel, on one of his recent visits to Cornelius Gurlitt. "Let there be no doubt that we will carry out the instructions of our client. We are about to return a work from the Schwabing portion of the collection that is justifiably suspected of being looted art. Discussions with other claimants have been constructive as well, and we expect to be returning additional works in the coming weeks," said attorney Christoph Edel. "Moreover, we are currently working on a restitution policy based on the Washington principles that we will rely on in the future as a reasonable and uniform basis for negotiating with claimants. We will apply it just as consistently in cases that likely involve looted art as in those cases that are less clear or not clear at all," says Christoph Edel. "But we would like to reiterate once more that in our opinion only a small percentage of the Gurlitt collection is suspected of being looted art. At the same time, we appeal to museums and the public sector in Germany to follow our example." 
Dr. Hannes Hartung discharged Attorney Dr. Hannes Hartung was discharged from his duties as Gurlitt's representative with effect from today. To date, he was responsible for the art law aspects of the Gurlitt case and also conducted talks with claimants. Potential claimants are kindly asked to address Mr Edel's office for the time being.

February 22, 2014

The Gurlitt Art Collection: Cornelius Gurlitt has retained legal counsel who have established a website on the case involving the seizure and claims over the "Nazi treasure"

In early November, the weekly German magazine Focus reported that Bavarian authorities had custody of value art collection owned by Cornelius Gurlitt whose father Hildebrand had been an art dealer to the Nazis. More than two months later, Mr. Gurlitt obtained legal counsel, Tido Park and Derek Setz, who have published a website presenting information about the Gurlitt Collection.

The website's chronology section details how a check of Cornelius Gurlitt on a train by German custom officials in September 2010 led to a search warrant a year later and the seizure in February 2012 of Gurlitt's art collection of 1,406 items from his residence in Munich. After Focus published the news of this "Nazi treasure", various government agencies initiated the process of publicizing the works amidst claims of theft. In December, a Munich court appointed a custodian, Chirstoph Edel, for Gurlitt. In January, Gurlitt's legal counsel filed 'a criminal complaint with the chief public prosecutor's office in Munich for breach of official secrecy. The main reason for the complaint was the publication of photographs of Gurlitt's apartment being searched and of other confidential details from the investigation files.' In February, more than 60 artworks were seized from Gurlitt's residence in Salzburg 'and were then insured and transported to a safe place at Mr. Gurlitt's request and at the suggestion and instigation of Christoph Edel – the court-appointed preliminary custodian – together with attorney Dr. Hannes Hartung and the professional assistance of art experts and conservators.' On Valentine's Day:
Professor Tido Park and Derek Setz, the attorneys defending Cornelius Gurlitt in his criminal lawsuit, filed an appeal with the Augsburg local court on February 14 this year against the search warrant and seizure order issued by the Augsburg local court on September 23, 2011 regarding the Schwabing part of the Gurlitt collection.
Another section on the Gurlitt Collection website, written by Munich lawyer Dr. Hannes Hartung, discusses the "Structure of the Collection of Dr. Hildebrant Gurlitt" from Gurlitt's role 'as one of the most important dealers in the German Reich' who 'acquired'
works for the Führermuseum planned by Hitler in Linz, Austria. In the same year, Gurlitt purchased a very large quantity of works that had formerly been Reich property from the German Reich and that as “degenerate” art had been confiscated from German museums. After the totalitarian “integration” process (Gleichschaltung), the German Reich saw no difference, both practically and legally, between national, regional, and local governments as we have today in our federal structure. 
The works originally came from the property of the German Reich and were legally acquired by Dr. Hildebrand Gurlitt by way of purchase or trade. The collection of Cornelius Gurlitt confiscated in Schwabing now includes about 380 of these artwork.
Hildebrand Gurlitt’s avid acquisition activities, among other things motivated by the desire to save art labeled as degenerate from its destruction, is documented in the so-called Fischer List (see This list shows that Dr. Hildebrand Gurlitt legally acquired many important works from former German Reich property. In many instances the works would have been destroyed if Dr. Gurlitt had not acquired them at bargain prices. The art that had been defamed as “degenerate” can therefore be considered the art historical focus of the Gurlitt collection. 
Private property of the Gurlitt family 
A large part of the artworks confiscated by the public prosecutors also includes works from the private collection of the Gurlitt family. Cornelius Gurlitt’s family is a major dynasty of German art historians. Some 330 works were already part of the family’s private collection before 1933 and are meant to be returned to their rightful owner, Cornelius Gurlitt, in the near future. 
“Looted art 
When the Nazis persecuted what they considered “degenerate” art, their target was the art itself and not its owners. Only in the case of looted art were the cultural assets bought up for far less than they were worth (compulsory sale), dispossessed, or confiscated. Only very few works in the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt are suspected of being looted art. 
Another 590 works are the solely property of Cornelius Gurlitt. Currently (as of February 14, 2014) only four claimants assert that the Gurlitt collection contains works that may have once been appropriated from Jewish owners in the context of Nazi persecution. Stated differently, the 1,280 seized works that are the property of Cornelius Gurlitt have attracted only four claimants who demand the return of so-called looted art from Cornelius Gurlitt. Specifically, the claimants are the Rosenberg, Friedmann, Glaser, and Littmann heirs.

December 6, 2013

Gurlitt Art Collection: The Economist publishes letter from Judge Tompkins on "Hildebrand Gurlitt's secret"

Here's a Letter published in The Economist (December 7, 2013; from the print edition):
Dealing with stolen art
* SIR – The discovery of a treasure trove of so-called “degenerate” art in a Munich flat triggers many challenges for Germany, not the least of which is, what to do with all these unique art works (“Hildebrand Gurlitt’s secret”, November 9th)? If many of the works were stolen from their original owners around 70 or so years ago then they should be returned to the heirs of those same dispossessed owners.
Getting close to doing that is the great challenge. Undoing the harm of the theft of any work of art, even more so when the theft was part of the evil of the Nazi regime, is a uniquely international problem. It demands both an international but also a creative answer. What is needed is, in short, an adhoc International Art Crime Tribunal. Such a tribunal would be assisted by art historians, provenance researchers, advocates to assist the commission and, crucially, claimant advocates and advisers to work with claimants so that they can properly and effectively present their claims. By this means the tribunal could create the kind of independent, neutral ground necessary for the lasting resolution of the disputes that will inevitably arise concerning the stolen art.
The tribunal should be entrusted with the task of resolving the fate of each work of art, not only by deciding the historical and legal claims to it, but also by explicitly evaluating, and giving equal weight to, the moral claim of the claimant. This is crucial. In the past claims to art looted in wartime have been undermined or destroyed by insufficient legal evidence to establish prior ownership, even though the moral claim for return of looted art is clear.
None of this is new. Precedents for all these aspects of the proposed tribunal exist, and have in a variety of settings and circumstances been used during recent decades. The challenges presented by these pictures provide a rare chance to bring together many of the valuable lessons learned over the long years of hard-won, accumulated experience gained in trying to undo the art crimes of the Nazis.
Trustee and faculty member of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art
Hamilton, New Zealand

November 20, 2013

Gurlitt Art Collection: Research aimed at differentiating stolen art from that which legally belongs to the collector

"Gurlitt may have part of seized art trove returned to him," according to a quote by the Augsburg prosecutor Tuesday (November 19). The German Deutsche Welle (DW) quoted Reinhard Nemetz: 
Augsburg prosecutor Reinhard Nemetz said in a statement on Tuesday that artwork that was not suspicious, not stolen by the Nazis and "undoubtedly was the property of the accused" would be returned to Gurlitt "immediately." 
"It is of key importance that works taken in connection with the Nazi persecution be identified so that outstanding property claims can be settled and possible previous owners can exercise their rights," said Nemetz.
"Berlin Art Expert to Lead Research on Munich Find", announces De Spiegel today in an article by Michael Sontheimer: the art historian Uwe Hartmann is the leaders of The Center for Provenance Investigation and Research at the Institute for Museum Research of the Berlin State Museums-Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.
As scientific director of a task force, he is responsible for shedding light on the darkness of a case which has been followed by art lovers around the world for the past two weeks -- the seizure of hundreds of paintings, drawings and etchings from the home of Cornelius Gurlitt, some of which may be art that had been looted by the Nazis. The collection had belonged to his father Hildebrand Gurlitt, who had collaborated with the Nazis after 1933. 
Earlier this month, Hartmann already publicly stated his own position about the art. "In many cases, we're not dealing with art looted by the Nazis," he told the German news agency DPA. "We must therefore act on the assumption Mr. Gurlitt is lawfully in possession of this property." 
Hartmann is charged with pulling the chestnuts out of the fire for the public prosecutors in Augsburg, who seized Gurlitt's art collection at the end of February 2012 on a very questionable legal basis. But his work will also be on behalf of the Bavarian state government and officials at the Finance Ministry in Berlin who were informed of the sensational discovery but said and did nothing about it -- and Germany itself.
The task for will be 'under the political guidance of lawyer Ingeborg Berggreen-Merkel, who served between 2008 and this April as a deputy to Bernd Neumann, the federal government's commissioner for culture and the media.'
Hartmann is to act as academic head of the task force. Alongside Hoffman, five other art historians will be hired temporarily or borrowed from museums. The Bavarian representatives want these art experts to have a public prosecutor at their side, as well. The exact identities of the other members of the task force, however, shall remain secret. That, of course, will leave less room for the transparency Westerwelle has demanded. 
Berggreen-Merkel announced as a first measure that the public prosecutor's office in Augsburg will publish images of 576 paintings which are suspected to be looted art at as soon as possible. But prosecutors must still determine the legal basis for releasing the images on the Internet given that Gurlitt hasn't been accused of committing any crime.
In addition, Neumann writes:
But it is unlikely the researchers will be able to act with the urgency required. At the annual meeting of the Provenance Research Working Group last week in Hamburg, the around 60 attendees spoke of "undertaking the requisite research into the Munich art find as speedily as possible, but also in the necessary scientific quality." 
The working group has existed for 10 years, but its members have not been able to agree on a standard for provenance specifications. It's more likely it will take the task force years rather than months to identifiy possible looted art in Gurlitt's collection. "Each case is unique," said one provenance researcher, "every picture is different."

At first, it also appeared that politicians and officials in Berlin were hesitant to include members of the Jewish Claims Conference among the experts reviewing the Gurlitt collection. With pressure growing, however, officials announced Monday that 10 experts would be part of the group probing the artworks, including two researchers with the organization, which has sought the return or restitution of Jewish property lost during the Holocaust. 
"The Claims Conference has represented the interests of Jews persecuted by the Nazis for more than six decades in all questions about damages and restitution," Rüdiger Mahlo, the international organization's German representative, said last week. "It is self-explanatory that there should be representation of the Jewish victims on such a commission." 
While the task force is being created, investigators in Augsburg are still receiving inquiries from lawyers who want to know whether artworks they are looking for on behalf of the heirs to the victims have been found in Gurlitt's apartment. Some 100 lawyers have already registered their interest with the public prosecutor's office. They have not received any answers.
While lawyers' enquiries are based on 'Gurlitt's apartment', as in the art dealer who purchased art for Hitler's proposed museum in his hometown of Linz and who traveled to Paris on art buying trips 10 times from 1942 to 1945, the German Government's website,, lists some images of the Hildebrand-Cornelius art collection under an art fund named after the district in which the apartment in Munich was located -- "Schwabinger Kunstfund".

November 18, 2013

Gurlitt Art Collection: Hildebrand's essay in 1955 on his art and legal complications

Hans Christoph's 'Couple' 1924 TELEGRAPH
From the staff at De Spiegel: Hildebrand Gurlitt's 1950s essay about his history with art in the article 'A Kind of Fief': Munich art hoarder's father in His Own Words, begins with this introduction:
Almost a year before his death, Hildebrand Gurlitt (1895-1956) wrote a six-page essay on the history of his collection that was originally intended to serve as a foreword for an exhibition catalogue. But it was never printed "for all kinds of reasons," as Gurlitt wrote in a letter in November 1955. This forgotten manuscript, which was kept for decades in the Düsseldorf city archives, is one of the few texts written by Gurlitt that provides an insight into the life and intellectual world of this passionate collector. One page -- in which Gurlitt apparently describes his career as an art dealer during the Nazi era -- is missing from the archives. Nevertheless, the surviving pages are an important source of information on the life of this man. The following is a compilation of the key passages:
Hildebrand Gurlitt's text describes his father as a collector and friend to "modern" artists in Germany; his military service in World War I; his studies in art history in Frankfurt; his jobs as a journalist and as a museum curator; 'that German Expressionism conveys its key message in prints and drawings'; 'fierce battles' over modern art with the Nazi Party; teaching in Dresden; sacked again in Hamburg; his struggles to support 'new art'; establishing an art gallery in his apartment in Hamburg; 
A great many works of modern art passed through my hands. They came from painters, from emigrated clients and friends, from people who preferred to sell the paintings as a precaution, from the depot of confiscated art in Niederschönhausen where, if you had enough pluck, you could buy very beautiful paintings with the same foreign currencies that were otherwise illegal to possess and could land you in jail. What wasn't sold for cash -- some 80,000 works of art, I believe -- was burned by the SS. I was able to save many of these paintings from destruction and pass them on to great collectors, like Josef Haubrich in Cologne and Bernhard Sprengel in Hanover, who purchased the entire collection of prints and drawings by Emil Nolde. There were always men whose profound love of the new art made them courageous, but everything was done half in secret.

(A page is missing here.)
 Hildebrand Gurlitt recovered art works in addition to what had been confiscated by the Americans:
(After the bombing raids on Dresden on the night of Feb. 14, 1945 -editor's note) we swore to regret no material losses, to recognize the logical consequences that had led to the destruction and, although we were filled with sorrow, to resume life, no matter how simple.

I found the safeguarded remains of the collection and still own them. But their adventures had actually only just begun. Torn from their passepartouts, dispersed at various locations, part of the collection was in Saxony, and it was only later, after a communist village mayor had confiscated them, that I was able to secure their release with a bit of cunning and, thanks to a good Russian who was delighted with two bottles of schnapps on a rainy night, slip them through the Iron Curtain. Another part of the collection was confiscated by the Americans and returned to me -- safe and sound -- by an outstanding specialist five years later. A third part of the collection was hidden in the thick walls of an old windmill in the Franconia region and later recovered.
Hildebrand Gurlitt indicates he was not acting as an art dealer after the war:
I have not been an art dealer for many years now; the "thousand years" of the Third Reich were enough for me. But I won't sell any of these works of art, just as I can acquire very few new ones. I see this collection, which has -- quite unexpectedly, I must say -- fallen back into my hands after so many perils, not as my property, but rather as a kind of fief that I have been assigned to steward.
Another article today by the De Spiegel staff, "Legal Issues Complicate Munich Art Treasure Trove Find", predicts years will be required to resolve complex provenance issues.
According to the Bavarian justice ministry, some 1,280 paintings and drawings were found in the apartment, although a figure of more than 1,400 works had been mentioned previously. The collection can be roughly divided into three groups:
  • First, there were the pictures that Hildebrand Gurlitt sold on behalf of the Nazi dictatorship, which it classified as "degenerate" and which he was expected to turn in hard currency abroad. The Bavarian investigators estimate that this category includes 380 works of art.
  • The second group consists of those works that were "seized in connection with acts of persecution," or the so-called looted art. These are works that were stolen from their Jewish owners. The Nazis confiscated entire collections, forcing Jewish collectors into selling them their artworks. Top Nazi officials obtained some of the works, while others ended up with art dealers. Cornelius Gurlitt's collection apparently contained some 590 works that officials suspect may have been looted art.
  • The third group, which includes 310 artworks, appears to be more innocuous. Hildebrand Gurlitt's acquisition of some of the pieces may be above suspicion, perhaps because he purchased them before the Nazi era or because they were part of the family estate.

 Here's information on 25 artworks released Nov. 11 (here in De Spiegel, an analysis on, and images in the Telegraph). 

November 16, 2013

Gurlitt Art Collection: Highlights on De Spiegel's "Phantom Collector"

De Spiegel: Max Liebermann, "Two Riders on the Beach"
As pointed out in a long article, "Phantom Collector: The Mystery of the Munich Nazi Art Trove", De Spiegel Online, English, November 11, 2013, by Spiegel Staff, in 1901 Max Liebermann, an Impressionist painter, created "Two Riders on the Beach" and exhibited it in Berlin and in the Hermes art salon in Frankfurt. Four years later, in 1905, Berlin gallerist Paul Cassirer sold the painting to a sugar refiner from Breslau, David Friedmann.
On Dec. 5, 1939, three months after the war broke out, Dr. Westram, a senior government official in Breslau, wrote a letter to the Reich minister of economics, under the heading: "Seizure of Jewish Art Collections." 
One passage relates to the "estimated value of artworks owned by Friedmann, a Jew." According to Westram, Friedmann's collection included French Impressionists "like Courbet, Pissarro, Raffaelli, Rousseau," along with "good German" landscapes. "The painting by Liebermann (Riders on the Beach) would likely fetch at least 10 to 15,000 Reichsmarks abroad," he wrote. He also noted that he had forbidden Friedmann from selling his artworks without permission. It is unlikely that he later sold the works despite Westram's instructions. 
De Spiegel: Sample of Gurlitt collection
'Forfeited to the Reich' 
When Friedmann died in 1942, his villa was sold at auction and the proceeds were "forfeited to the Reich." His daughter Charlotte was deported to an SS death camp in 1943 and murdered there.
De Spiegel's article recounts the family history of Hildebrand Gurlitt (part Jewish from an 'educated middle-class-family'); Hldebrand Gurlitt's dismissal twice from two positions by the Nazis; his success at dealing in art (1935); and the Nazi's characterization and assemblage of "Degenerate art".
On Oct. 25, 1938, Gurlitt gained access to the storage facility containing the "degenerate" art, which included works he had once acquired for the museum in Zwickau. They were kept at Schloss Schönhausen in Berlin. Gurlitt had customers in Basel and New York. He, like other dealers, also secretly sold graphic works in Germany. Hamburg art historian Maike Bruhns learned that Gurlitt showed drawings by Paul Klee and Emil Nolde to customers he trusted in the basement of his Kunstkabinett gallery. 
Art to the Highest Bidder
Gurlitt took on more than 3,700 works on paper from Schloss Schönhausen. In May 1939, he sold the Franz Marc painting "Animal Destinies" to the Kunstmuseum Basel for 6,000 Swiss francs, for which he received a commission of 1,000 francs. For the same amount of money, he bought 1,723 works on paper from Schloss Schönhausen in mid-December 1940. They included watercolors, prints and drawings by Emil Nolde, Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and other Expressionists. Gurlitt signed his letters to the officials in Joseph Goebbels' propaganda ministry with the words "Heil Hitler!" or "With German greetings."
A companion later recalled that Gurlitt drove a small car in those days, and that he would see "paintings by Munch, Corinth and Franz Marc emerging from the car like some colorful ball of yarn, and it was never quite clear how all of it could have fit into that tiny car."
Then came a defining moment in Gurlitt's career. His friend Hermann Voss, director of the Dresden State Art Collections and special commissioner for the planned "Führer Museum" in Linz, Austria, hired him in 1943 to build Hitler's art collection. Gurlitt brokered the purchase of paintings from various countries, including the occupied countries of Western Europe -- France, the Netherlands and Belgium -- for several million Reichsmarks. He was provided with privileges and given the necessary documents. A letter from the "Special Commissioner for Linz" certified that Gurlitt was buying works of art "for the purposes of the Führer," and that it was "of great interest in terms of cultural policy" that the art dealer be allowed to "complete his mission expeditiously." 
Hitler's Art Commissioner
Hitler's special commissioner for Linz had his office at the Dresden State Art Collections, where records were kept on the looted art. The purchases made for Linz between December 1942 and April 1945 are documented in the so-called "Wiedemann list." It includes the transactions conducted by Gurlitt's gallery.
Under the first entry, dated Sept. 6, 1943, Gurlitt delivered four paintings, including a work by Claude Joseph Vernet called "Seaport by Moonlight," for 40,000 Reichsmarks. One hundred thousand Reichsmarks were paid for the first delivery.
Gurlitt kept himself busy after that. Within a year, he delivered well over 100 paintings, rugs, drawings, miniatures, portraits, sculptures, tapestries and pastels to the special office. According to the list, the value of the artworks, which was already at rock bottom because of the pressure the Nazis were exerting on private collectors, was more than 9.2 million Reichsmarks, of which Gurlitt received a 5 percent commission.
The last Gurlitt painting arrived at the special office on Sept. 6, 1944. The work, "Madonna and Child Between Angels," by a member of the early Italian school, was priced at 200,000 Reichsmarks.

In an interview with Allied Forces in 1945, Gurlitt denied purchasing art stolen from Jewish families which De Spiegel questions:
Gurlitt toured the territories occupied by Nazi Germany like a kind of traveling salesman. In France he acquired 19th-century paintings for German cigarette manufacturer Philipp F. Reemtsma. He attended auctions that sold off looted art from museums and stolen art that authorities had seized from Jewish owners. Is it possible that he knew nothing of the origins of this artwork?
In regards to the bombing of Hildrebrand Gurlitt's home in Dresden in 1945:
In the spring of 1945, part of Gurlitt's collection was in Dresden; the family was living at Kaitzerstrasse 26 at the time. During the Allied air raids on the night of Feb. 13-14, the building was nearly completely destroyed, but Gurlitt was apparently able to save most of his art trove. In mid-March 1945, as he later wrote in a sworn statement, he was able to salvage the remainder of his "safeguarded paintings" and pack them in "roughly 25 crates," along with numerous boxes with hundreds of drawings and prints. 
He then transported the collection in a "truck with a trailer" to Aschbach in the southern German state of Bavaria, where he said he stored it in a castle that was soon captured by advancing US troops. "All crates and boxes," said Gurlitt, "were carefully checked by American commissions on a number of occasions." Many of the works were confiscated and brought to the central collecting point in Wiesbaden, he noted.
Gurlitt insisted to the Allies that he was not a Nazi, De Spiegel:
American officials were skeptical, and described Gurlitt as withdrawn and nervous. They thought his behavior was suspicious, and asked him why he had brought crates with the stamp of the Dresden state art collections to western Germany, along with alleged gold bars. He remained evasive.
At the same time, he agreed to give back a number of works in his possession that he had acquired in France. He also compiled a comprehensive list of the paintings that he had purchased in France during the war, which included Rodins, Chardins and Rembrandts.
Yet, De Spiegel writes:
The fact of the matter is that Hildebrand Gurlitt led two lives, as shown by many file documents. The Hamburg Police Department wrote in 1947 that Gurlitt allegedly "profited enormously" from the period of the Third Reich. "Aside from an exaggerated sense of business acumen, he reportedly took advantage of the predicament of the Jews and associated with men from the counterintelligence service." 
This was based on testimony by Gurlitt's former secretary Ingeborg Hertmann. She noticed that Gurlitt "maintained regular business and personal contacts with the Propaganda Ministry, Dr. (Rolf) Hetsch (the Propaganda Ministry's consultant for the visual arts), ... (Minister of Armaments and War Production Albert) Speer and (Propaganda Minister Joseph) Goebbels." 
In the years 1942 and 1943, she said that he "only worked for the Führer." She went on to say that at the Hamburg Kunsthalle -- an art museum in the city -- he purchased paintings by Liebermann "at cheap prices that were incomprehensible to me and sold them for astronomical amounts of money." The secretary added: "When the Jews were deported to the Lodz ghetto, they entrusted Gurlitt with all of their paintings to be sold. After a while, these people wrote letters, asking him to send money because they were starving. Gurlitt then told me in a calm and indifferent manner to send 10 Reichsmarks to the Jew."
Nevertheless, the Americans were generous. Gurlitt was allowed to keep the works of art that he had declared his private property at the collecting point of the US administration in Wiesbaden. In December 1950, the US high commissioner approved the return of 134 paintings and drawings from the "Gurlitt collection." In addition to the artwork, there were Nepalese antiquities and Meissen porcelain. For two additional works of art, the art dealer produced a certificate from a Swiss friend who attested that he gave Gurlitt a Picasso and a Chagall in Switzerland "around 1943." He subsequently received these works as well. A photo of the Chagall, an "allegory with three moons," was shown last week at a press conference. 
In Gurlitt's later years, before he died in a car crash in 1956, he served as the director of the Düsseldorf Kunstverein from 1948. He still had an enormous amount of energy, and he transformed this small art association into a captivating institution, which of course showed modern art. He also continued to deal in artwork. Indeed, it's likely that after 1945 Gurlitt added a number of works to the collection that was found at the home of his son Cornelius in Munich. 
The paintings returned by the Americans also included Max Lieberman's "Two Riders on the Beach," which had somehow made its way from David Friedmann's conservatory in Breslau to Gurlitt's crates of artwork in Dresden.

November 14, 2013

Gurlitt Art Collection: New images to be released under the "Schwabinger Kunstfund"

This is a Nov. 14 posting on the German government's Lost Art Internet Database about the images to be publicized from the art collection of Hildebrand Gurlitt inherited by his son Cornelius after the death of Hildebrand's wife. This is the Google Translation into English from the original German:
"Schwabing Art Fund": publication of 590 works on

Berlin, 14 November 2013 
press release of the Task Force "Schwabing Art Fund" 
Dr. Ingeborg Mountain Green Merkel 
The mandated by the federal government and the Free State of Bavaria Head of the Task Force "Schwabing Art Fund" Dr. Ingeborg Mountain Green Merkel welcomes the public prosecutor in Augsburg all around 590 works of art from the "Schwabing Art Fund", with possible Nazi-related withdrawal is not excluded, reports on the website of the coordinating body Magdeburg. This happens also in agreement with the involved ministries at the federal and state level. With the publication - after the technical conditions have been created - started in the coming week. 

On the basis of existing findings in a timely and comprehensive research on the history of the works of art is possible only by the general public involved. Without a transparent documentation of the retrieved results is a comprehensive clarification of the provenance of the art works hard to achieve. In addition, potential voters are now set rapidly in a position to identify missing artwork and possibly be able to make a claim. Databases such as provide for a central communication base represents the publication of the works thus makes a decisive contribution to provenance research, and above all to easily and quickly find potential voters. The results of research on the individual works of art are made of Augsburg public prosecutor immediately available. 

"The origin of the so-called 'Schwabing Art Fund' seized works of art can be found as quickly and transparently as possible with the publication on," said Ingeborg Mountain Green Merkel. According to the findings of the prosecution must Augsburg from the seized collection - minus the objects that clearly have no relation to Nazi-looted art - about 590 works are reviewed. 

For further research, a task force with experts has been formed for provenance research, which has already started work. And international expertise should be used. Personnel contribute to the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media, the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues and the Free State of Bavaria. This method ensures that the expertise of all participating institutions at the federal and state are included. 

The website is the central service unit of federal and state governments for the documentation of cultural losses during the Nazi period and corresponding sources of messages. BKM Press Office Dorotheenstrasse 84, 10117 Berlin Phone: 030 / 18272-3281 Fax: 030/18 272 -3259 E-mail: Internet:
On the Looted Art Internet Database, the English version (not based on Google Translation) is titled "Munich Art Trove." The press release, dated three days earlier, is as follows:
“Schwabing art trove”: Provenance of treasures to be

researched alongside criminal proceedings – suspicious works being publicised at
Press release

11 November 2013
page 1 of 2
Joint press release by the Bavarian State Ministry of Justice, the Bavarian State Ministry of Education, Science and the Arts, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media:
We are working as quickly and transparently as possible to find out where the works of art come from which were discovered in the “Schwabing art trove”. The Federal and State Ministries involved have agreed in the interests of possible owners to take a broad-based approach to the provenance research, making use of the “Degenerate Art” Research Centre of Freie Universität Berlin and running parallel to the criminal proceedings of the Augsburg public prosecution office. The restitution issues arising from the Schwabing art trove in connection with Nazi-confiscated and looted art cannot be adequately resolved by criminal proceedings alone. That is not the job of criminal proceedings.
The federal and Länder authorities have agreed to put together a qualified task force of at least six provenance research experts without delay. Dr Ingeborg Berggreen-Merkel has been charged by the federal and Bavarian authorities to head the task force, which will be coordinated by Berlin-based specialist provenance research office the AfP (Arbeitsstelle für Provenienzrecherche/ forschung). Dr Berggreen-Merkel was formerly Deputy Chair of the Board at the AfP as well as Deputy Minister of State to the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. The AfP is funded by the Cultural Foundation of the Länder, and its main task is to help public museums and institutions in Germany identify cultural property in their collections which was confiscated from the legitimate owners during the Nazi era.
The Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Federal Office of Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues, and the Free State of Bavaria will all provide specialists for the provenance research task force. This will ensure it can make use of the expertise of all the federal and Länder authorities involved.
Current information from the Augsburg public prosecution office suggests that, not counting those which clearly have nothing to do with “degenerate art” or Nazi confiscation, there are around 970 pieces among the artwork seized which need to be investigated. Of these, around 380 works belong to the category of so-called “degenerate art”. Approximately 590 pieces need to be investigated for possible confiscation under the Nazi regime.
In order to ensure transparency and to advance the provenance research, an initial 25 works of art where confiscation by the Nazis is particularly strongly suspected are being listed today on The Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg, which runs the internet database, will keep the list continuously updated. The Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg, run jointly by the Federation and the Länder, is Germany’s central service for documenting and returning cultural treasures and will be available to answer any questions about the documented objects. Questions about the criminal proceedings should be directed to the Augsburg public prosecution office.
Aware of Germany’s responsibility for resolving issues related to Nazi crimes and in deference to the 1998 Washington Conference Principles and the 1999 Joint Declaration by the Federal Government, Länder and National Associations of Local Authorities, we are thus ensuring transparency and due attention to issues of ownership and cultural history, without hindering the proper conduct of the Augsburg public prosecution office’s criminal investigations.