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November 30, 2013

Is it a Pollack? New York Times Journalist Patricia Cohen looks at the case between two women and a painting; a few professionals weigh in

From the New York Times: Is this a Pollack?
In "A Real Pollock? On This, Art and Science Collide" by Patricia Cohen for the New York Times (Nov. 24), the argument between Jackson Pollack's widow Lee Krasner and his lover Ruth Kligman is examined in the authentication of a 'small painting with swirls and splotches of red, black, and silver'.
Until her death, in 2010, Ms. Kligman, herself an artist, insisted the painting was a love letter to her created by Pollock in the summer of 1956, just weeks before he died in a car crash. But the painting was rejected by an expert panel set up to authenticate and catalog all of Pollock’s works by a foundation established by Ms. Krasner. This month, it seemed the dispute that outlived both women might finally be settled. Ms. Kligman’s estate announced that forensic tests — comparing samples from the loafers Pollock died in, his rugs and his backyard — had linked the painting with Pollock and his home. But instead of resolving one dispute, the findings only reignited another, one that pits traditional ways of determining whether a work is genuine against newer technologies. 
On one side stands Francis V. O’Connor, a stately Old World-style connoisseur with a Vandyke beard and curled mustache, who believes erudition and a practiced eye are essential to judging authenticity. Mr. O’Connor, a co-editor of the definitive Pollock catalog and a member of the now-disbanded Pollock-Krasner Foundation authentication committee, said “Red, Black and Silver” does not look like a Pollock. “I don’t think there’s a Pollock expert in world that would look at that painting and agree it was a Pollock,” Mr. O’Connor said at a symposium this month.
On the other side is Nicholas D. K. Petraco, a retired New York City detective and forensics specialist who examined the painting at the request of the Kligman estate. Approaching the canvas board as if it were a body at a crime scene, Mr. Petraco said he had no doubt the painting was made at the Pollock house and is linked to Pollock. “I’ve had cases with less materials than this where people are spending 25 to 30 years in jail,” he said.
As technology advances, the art world has turned to microscopic analysis and pigment testing to buttress — or challenge — the judgments of a tiny club of experts whose opinions have long been treated as law. This pursuit of scientific validation has only deepened as art historians and institutions like the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, which shut down its authentication board in 1996, retreat from certifying art for fear of being sued. But science has its limits. Paint or paper may help establish the date of a work, while hair and fibers can help pinpoint where it was made. A work’s provenance must also be verified. Still, connoisseurs — as well as most auction houses who rely on them — maintain that true authorship cannot be established without an expert evaluation of the composition and individual strokes that reveal an artist’s “signature.” In this case, the difference of opinion could be worth millions. Unauthenticated, “Red, Black and Silver” would be listed as “attributed to Pollock” and carry an estimate of no more than $50,000, said Patricia G. Hambrecht, chief business development officer at Phillips auction house, where the painting is consigned. If judged a Pollock, the painting’s estimated value would soar to seven figures, she said.
Ms. Kligman’s account of the painting dates to the summer of 1956 when she was 26 and living in Pollock’s house in East Hampton, N.Y., after Krasner, having caught the lovers together, sailed for Europe. Pollock was in an alcoholic tailspin and hadn’t painted in two years. As Ms. Kligman detailed in a new introduction to the 1999 edition of her memoir, “Love Affair: A Memoir of Jackson Pollock,” the artist was on the lawn when she brought him his paint and the sticks he used. After he finished, he said, “Here’s your painting, your very own Pollock.” A friend of Ms. Kligman’s, Bette Waldo Benedict, has said Ms. Kligman told her the same story at the time.
Art forensics have primarily concentrated on what a painting is made of. But Mr. Petraco, who has decades of experience with the New York Police Department crime lab and is now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, looked at what the painting contained: the dust, hairs, fibers or other detritus that might have fallen on the surface and under the paint. Because Mr. Petraco, who holds a Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry, has more experience analyzing red blood than red paint, he decided to perfect his technique for removing materials without damaging the painting by making some Pollock-like drip paintings in his backyard in Massapequa Park, on Long Island. (It’s tougher than it looks, he confessed.) Despite what one sees on television crime shows, hairs and threads cannot be traced to a specific individual or sweater, Mr. Petraco said. What builds a forensic case is not any single piece of evidence but a combination of consistent factors. In this case, Mr. Petraco said the clincher was discovering a polar bear hair, a rare find in a country that has banned the import of polar bear products for more than 40 years. “Is there a polar bear in this story?” Mr. Petraco wondered. There was. A polar bear rug that had adorned the living room floor in 1956 was still in the East Hampton attic.
Colette Loll, a private fraud investigator who worked on the case, said she had no preset agenda. “I was looking to poke holes,” she said but “fraud just wasn’t supported.” Both she and Mr. Petraco said they had donated their services to the estate. Ms. Loll said the case presented “a real opportunity to shift the paradigm away from the dictatorship of the connoisseur, where only one or two people who sit on their thrones can decide what is and what is not an authentic painting.
Mr. O’Connor, who is widely viewed as one of the top authorities on Pollock, said art forensics are valuable, but in this case he found the results “redundant and essentially irrelevant.” The painting may have been made in Pollock’s yard but that doesn’t mean it was made by Pollock’s hand. He did not speculate by whose hand it might have been. To Mr. O’Connor, connoisseurship is just as rigorous as forensics. Its methods, he acknowledged, “can seem mysterious, if not laughable, to the lay person.” But the connoisseur, he said, has “absorbed into visual memory the artist’s characteristic form — his shapes, compositional devices, linear rhythms, typical colors” and handling of paint well enough to detect a fake. In “Red, Black and Silver,” a silver wash covers the canvas and a black ovoid shape near the center serves as a focal point. No other Pollock has either of those characteristics, he said. In 1995, the authentication board offered to designate Ms. Kligman’s painting as a problematic work, which meant that if other scholars, with further study, labeled the work as authentic, the board would not object. But Ms. Kligman rejected that qualification. In Mr. O’Connor’s view, “the Kligman work is in limbo with respect to authenticity.” Whether it remains that way is an open question: After all, precisely what happened between two people, now dead, who were alone on a summer afternoon in an East Hampton yard 57 years ago may ultimately be beyond the ken of science or connoisseurship.
ARCAblog found three professionals on Linked In who offered opinions on this issue of connoisseurship versus forensics and the recent Pollock case.

Dr. John Daab, a Certified Fraud Examiner specializing in art and forgery research, posted the question on Linked In: "Connoisseurship v. forensics and the recent Pollock case: Isn’t time to take the mystery and politics out of authentication?" He offered this perspective here:
The recent Pollock work given a thumbs down by a so called Pollock expert was no more than a magic trick smoothed over by an assemblage of gibberish seemingly portrayed as scholarly analysis. The connoisseur expert used facts and scientific verbiage to drive his conclusions but the science (Chaos Theory) was unrelated to the subject matter and has been challenged by other scientists as bogus when related to Pollock’s works. The facts supporting the expert call consisted of a recent movie about Pollock and not a well carried out investigation based on acceptable methodologies, replicable, and verifiable by others. The connoisseur Pollock expert even got some of his facts wrong regarding forensic experts. Forensic experts are deemed expert by the Judge in a particular case, and their expertise can be jettisoned at any time during a trial via an In Limine challenge. Further, forensic graphology is not considered to be field of expertise in a court of law, whereas Questioned Document Examination and Examiners are. Yes the world of connoisseur expertise is mysterious and those of us involved in forensic examination of fine art raise the question of why now with all our advanced technology and empirical processing are we still using hocus pocus to authenticate? (The Knoedler gallery case with 60 bad calls by 20 experts demonstrates how bad the problem really is.) What seems to be happening is that the world of the connoisseurship is undergoing a paradigm shift. Just as we found that the world did not end at the horizon we are now finding that the world of connoisseurship is unraveling due to its subjective and intuitive nature. The solipsistic nature of connoisseurship coated with gobbledygook and sleight of hand magic is under siege with its cloak of scholarly analysis slowly dematerializing.
Toby Bull, Senior Inspector with the Hong Kong Police Force and Art Risk Security Consultant at TrackArt, wrote:
Good article. As a 20+ year policeman with a CID background, who holds both a Fine Arts degree & an Art Authentication (covering Forensics) qualification, I took up this very same topic when I presented a paper at The World Congress of Forensics back in 2011 titled, "Connoisseurship versus Science or Connoisseurship plus Science -- Methods in Art Authentication". My conclusion was that, generally, there is too much dismissal of the value science can bring and that it should very much be a case of science supporting the experts' eyes -- but that's just a humble copper's point of view.
It's a common-enough problem (the 'snobbery' of the connoisseur & dismissal of what scientific testing can bring to the table) , and was the case here in HK too - certainly 10+ years ago - with regard to tests on Chinese antiquities / ceramics, but slowly the positives of what - and just how easily - science can detect a fake has been gaining ground, with the best dealers now taking this on board. The number of fakes being sold are still legion, with many dealers knowingly putting fakes out there into the local market, exploiting the ignorance of the general one-off buyer. It's still a case of knowing which dealer one can trust (ones who don't knowingly peddle fakes) of whom there are some and yes, ultimately, for the collector: Caveat Emptor. TrackArt can and does operate within this minefield, with its education seminars being just one 'weapon' in its arsenal against the trade in fakes.
Dennis Baltuskonis, Owner of Art Conservation Services, responded to Dr. Daab's question:
The short answer to your question eliminate the mystery etc? Yes. But replace it with what? I propose a scoring system. E.g. Give "science" a score of 50 points. And Connoisseurs 50 points. On any single object let the experts weigh in and "score" said object. Take the average score from each side ADD them together for the final point score. Then let the buyer beware. Obviously a 100 point score "indicates" a general consensus that experts from both sides "agree/concer" and said object is "AUTHENTIC" (as most people accept that word). Like a bottle of wine rated 94 it doesn't necessarily mean that the end user will agree. Such a scoring system also leaves open the possibility that new evidence might arise which would alter the SCORE. Each "side" can create their own guidelines upon which any SCORE by any "expert" is acceptable. An independent panel might be formed to "consider" each score, etc. etc. It is possible to remove the decision from the realm of politics and special interests. This is one idea. What is yours?

Gurlitt Art Collection: "Europe's dirty little art secret", 252 Works of Art Disclosed and HARP adds perspective

Gurlitt Collection: Daumier's
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza
Anne-Marie O'Connor, author of Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimit's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (reviewed here), writes an Op-Ed piece about "Europe's dirty little art secret" (Nov. 28) in the Los Angeles Times:
The outrage sparked by the clumsy handling of a Nazi-looted art trove in Munich, which was revealed this month, shows the urgent need for transparency in the art world, from museums to auction houses to private collections. For years this rarefied world has functioned like a private club. Many institutions, especially in Europe, have kept their World War II-era provenance files discreetly locked away, or have even quietly accepted questionable art from moneyed donors. Dealers too have looked the other way — until a painting stolen during the Holocaust is suddenly, fortuitously spotted, and an auction block turns into a crime scene. The Munich artworks — many of which were apparently either confiscated from Jewish families, bought for a fraction of their value or pulled off museum walls as "degenerate art" — are only the latest glaring example of the need for openness.
The truth is this: Any work coming up for auction, offered in donation or held in state or private collections that has gaps or shifts in its ownership between 1933 and 1948 might have been stolen or obtained under duress. The records relating to such works must be made easily available, and the job of sorting through the documentation should be left to professionals who specialize in tracing Nazi art theft — and to the claimants themselves.
The Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933-1945 issues a weekly newsletter This week the headlines include "252 Works of Art from the Gurlitt Collection Disclosed to Date":

Table of Gurlitt Works of Art Posted on
252 works of art have been posted on the German site to date. They are posted in no particular order, are not searchable except by searching the entire lostart database, and the information in English is only an abbreviated version of that provided in German. In order to assist researchers and families searching for their missing artworks, the Central Registry,, has created a fully searchable table of all the artworks. This will be continually updated as new works are posted. The works are listed in alphabetical order by artist and the table includes all available provenance information.
For further information, click here.
Gurlitt Collection: Max Liebermann's Riders on the Beach
The Central Registry's list of the Gurlitt Works consists of many drawings, watercolors, prints, and lithographs by artists such as François Boucher, Canaletto, Cézanne, Marc Chagall, Corot, Daumier, Degas, Delacroix, André Derain, Otto Dix, Dürer, Ingres, Max Liebermann, Manet, Millet, Munch, Picasso, Pissarro, Rodin, Rousseau, Seurat, Tiepolo, and Toulouse-Lautrec. Three oil paintings are listed: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza by Honoré Daumier;  Riders on the beach by Max Liebermann (Provenance: Collection David Friedmann, Breslau); and Seated Woman in an Armchair by Henri Matisse (Provenance: Collection Paul Rosenberg, Paris; 1944 purchased from Gustav Rochlitz).

In the German DW.DE, journalist Jefferson Chase interviews HARP for a perspective in "Gurlitt case takes Allies, global art market to task": Parts of the Gurlitt collection are likely of dubious provenance. But why were they restored at all to an art dealer who had worked for the Nazis? DW asked two founders of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project:
One side to the story that has largely escaped scrutiny, however, is the role of Allied occupation authorities after World War II. After all, they were nominally responsible for ensuring that art looted by the Nazis was returned to its proper owners in the first place. Rightly or wrongly, the state prosecutor in the city of Augsburg has come under criticism for the length of time between the seizure, which was only made public by a German news magazine at the start of this month, and initial attempts to restore the artworks to their legitimate owners. But questions should also be asked as to how Germany's post-war occupiers could have allowed Hildebrand Gurlitt - one of the leading art dealers in the Third Reich - to amass a collection including works by Chagall, Matisse, Picasso, and Dix and then pass that trove on to his son Cornelius.
US soldiers had the tough task of finding the proper owners of looted art. 
Gurlitt Collection: Henri Matisse
Seated Woman in an Armchair
"I'm astonished at how quickly the Allied forces in charge of collection points for plundered art were to return it to whoever claimed it," Ori Soltes, an art professor at Georgetown University and a co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP), told DW. "There was even a case of art being given to a man claiming to represent Yugoslavia who was in fact just a private collector." 
According to historian Marc J. Masurovsky, another co-founder of HARP, Hildebrand Gurlitt was an established art dealer and a former museum director "who was given significant responsibilities during the 12-year reign of the National Socialists both to recycle thousands of so-called 'degenerate' works purged by decree from German public collections and to acquire untold numbers of works and objects of art at auctions inside the Reich and from galleries, dealers, collectors and artists living and working in German-occupied territories."

November 28, 2013

LA Times: "Recovered Nazi-looted artwork to be donated to LACMA"

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art will receive a gift of a Baroque-era masterpiece by Bernardo Strozzi from Phillipa Calnan, a former public affairs director for LACMA and the J. Paul Getty Trust, writes Christopher Knight in "Recovered Nazi-looted artwork to be donated to LACMA" for the Los Angeles Times.
The life-size figure of St. Catherine of Alexandria, painted in Genoa around 1615 by Bernardo Strozzi, was installed Monday in the third floor galleries for European art. The painting, valued at between $2.5 million and $3 million, is a promised gift to the museum, where it vaults to the top tier of paintings in LACMA's collection.
An Italian court ordered the painting's return to Calnan.
It disappeared after the 1943 Nazi occupation of Florence, one of nearly a dozen works stolen from the collection assembled by Charles A. Loeser, an American expatriate and heir to a Brooklyn department store fortune. Loeser moved to Italy in 1890 and died in 1928. Ten years after Loeser's death, prior to the outbreak of World War II, Mussolini's fascist government passed a series of anti-Jewish "racial laws." Loeser's widow, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter left Florence before the German occupation, leaving behind valuable works of art restricted from leaving Italy. The painting vanished in April 1944, after the Nazi prefect set up headquarters in the family's Villa Torri di Gattaia, located on the city's highest hill.
The Strozzi was one of several Loeser collection works on the authoritative list of Nazi-plundered art compiled after the war by Rodolfo Siviero, an Italian art historian called "the 007 of art" for his work as an Allied secret agent. It is also recorded in Germany's Lost Art Internet Database, established to track Nazi loot. The painting first surfaced around 2008 in Vienna, where it was sold by an unidentified Austrian collector.

Sotheby's was approached about accepting the painting for auction, but research into its provenance, or history of ownership, identified its status as Nazi plunder. The auction house notified Italian police and contacted Calnan, Loeser's granddaughter.

The Art Newspaper Quotes ARCA's Noah Charney and Dick Ellis in "Recovery rate for stolen art as low as 1.5%"

Melanie Gerlis and Javier Pes for The Art Newspaper quote both ARCA founder Noah Charney and ARCA Lecturer Dick Ellis in today's online article "Recovery rate for stolen art as low as 1.5%":
The rate of recovery and successful prosecution in cases of art theft is startlingly low, with one expert putting it at only 1.5% globally, The Art Newspaper has learned, underlining the challenges of identifying and returning stolen works.  The global cost of crimes linked to art and antiques was recently estimated at £3.7bn a year by the UK’s Association of Chief Police Officers. Noah Charney, a professor of art history specialising in art crime and the founder of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art, which organised a symposium on the subject at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum this month, says that statistics are hard to come by because police forces seldom distinguish between stolen art and other stolen goods. “A Rembrandt is classified with a CD,” he says.
At the core of the problem is the low importance that most police forces attach to such crimes; the exception is Italy’s Carabinieri, which claims that its force of 350 officers recovers around 30% of lost art. The theft of property in general “has a low priority in Britain and across Europe”, said Dick Ellis, the former head of the Metropolitan Police’s Art and Antiques Unit, at the symposium. In the UK, for example, the Metropolitan Police has just three officers dedicated to art crime (down from 14 around 20 years ago). In the US, the FBI has around 14 agents trained to investigate art crimes, although they do not work on these exclusively. Attempts to pool information on stolen works to create a comprehensive, international database have failed, largely because of a lack of funding.
Without proper public funding, the onus is on private firms, who charge a recovery fee of as much as 30% of a work’s value. Here, there are also areas of contention, particularly surrounding the issue of paying informers for leads on stolen works. This area is a “legal minefield”, said Claire Hutcheon, the head of the Met’s Art and Antiques Unit. “Art cannot be recovered at any cost,” she said.

November 27, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Theft: Reuters' "Romania hands 6-1/2 year jail term to Dutch art theft boss

Reuters: Eugen Darie (center) and Radu Dogaru (right)
Radu Marinas reports for Reuters in "Romania hands 6-1/2 year jail term to Dutch art theft boss":
A Romanian court sentenced the ringleader of a gang that stole paintings from a Dutch museum in one of the world's biggest art heists to six years and eight months in prison on Tuesday. Radu Dogaru and fellow gang member Eugen Darie, both Romanians, received the same sentence for stealing the masterpieces, including two Monets and a Picasso, in October 2012. The paintings have yet to be found. The trial will continue on Dec 3. for four other defendants including Dogaru's mother, who is also accused of destroying the art and has exercised her right not to comment. Dogaru and Darie pleaded guilty earlier this year to stealing the artworks, insured for 18 million euros ($24.4 million), from Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum.

November 26, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - , No comments

Donna Tartt's novel 'Goldfinch' endangers Carel Fabritius painting while NYC exhibits the masterpiece at The Frick

The Goldfinch, by Carel Fabritius,
1654 (Courtesy of The Frick)
Horror writer Stephen King reviewed Donna Tartt's Goldfinch (Little, Brown & Company, October 2013) in The New York Times last month, calling the 771-page novel "a rarity":
“The Goldfinch” is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind. I read it with that mixture of terror and excitement I feel watching a pitcher carry a no-hitter into the late innings. You keep waiting for the wheels to fall off, but in the case of “The Goldfinch,” they never do.
The story involves a terrorist bombing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, King writes:
Of course, all this is an alternate history (or a secret history, if you prefer). No such bombing ever happened, and the painting that a dazed and frightened Theo spirits out of the wreckage — “The Goldfinch,” made in 1654 by Carel Fabritius — was never stolen. It resides in the Royal Picture Gallery [Mauritshuis] of The Hague. This in no way spoils Tartt’s charmed narrative, which follows 10 years of Theo’s adventures.
Through January 19, The Goldfinch is visiting New York City as part of the Frick's exhibition "Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis". Here at WNYC News "Art Talk: New Yorkers Are Obsessed With This Teeny Tiny Bird":
Record crowds are flocking to the Frick Collection on the Upper East Side to see a small painting of a bird created almost 400 years ago. That's because "The Goldfinch," painted by Dutch artist Carel Fabritius in 1654, inspired Donna Tartt's new novel of the same name. According to the museum, a record 61,000 visitors have come to see the Dutch painting exhibit in which it is featured. But does this bird deserve that much buzz?  "Definitely," said WNYC’s art critic Deborah Solomon in this interview. "I love that the novel is drawing so much attention to this most worthy, but unassuming and humble, masterpiece." Solomon explained that The Goldfinch influenced Johannes Vermeer when he was creating a much more famous Dutch painting, "The Girl With a Pearl Earring," which is also now at the Frick. "You have to go see it to believe it," she said.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - , No comments

Gurlitt Art Collection: De Spiegel 'Bavarian Justice Minister Says Empathy for Gurlitt is No Longer Any Help'

In the Spiegel Online International article "Art Investigation: 'Empathy Alone Doesn't Help Us Any Further", Bavarian Justice Minister Winfried Bausback answers Spiegel's questions about the legality and morality of confiscating the art collection of Cornelius Gurlitt in 2012.
SPIEGELMr. Bausback, has the public prosecutor's office in the city of Augsburg consistently conducted itself in an absolutely correct manner in the case of Munich art collector Cornelius Gurlitt? 

BausbackThe confiscation was based on a court order. As a minister, I am in no position to comment on this. But there is another level that concerns our responsibility to come to terms with the crimes committed under the Nazi reign of terror, and this is important for the image of Bavaria and Germany around the world. Too much time has elapsed on this level since the paintings were confiscated in 2012 without us making sufficient progress in clearing up the provenance of many of these works. There is no doubt that everyone involved on the federal and state level should have tackled this challenge with more urgency and resources right from the start.
Questions about charges and Cornelius Gurlitt's legal representation are addressed:
SPIEGEL: What criminal allegations constitute the basis for the confiscation?
Bausback: Tax-related allegations in connection with art objects. The pictures and other things were confiscated as evidence.
SPIEGEL: Actually it had to do with the sale of a single painting. Did that mean that the authorities had to go ahead and cart off the entire art trove that Gurlitt had in his apartment?
Bausback: To protect tax confidentiality and Mr. Gurlitt's rights -- and because this is an ongoing investigation -- I don't want to make any public statements about the details of this case. As a general rule, every defendant in a criminal case has recourse to legal remedies to redress confiscations.
SPIEGEL: Gurlitt thinks that he will get the pictures back without resorting to such measures. Are you glad that he still hasn't hired a lawyer?
Bausback: He has every right to decide whether he wants to be represented by an attorney and how he defends himself.
 Will this case reconcile the past?
SPIEGEL: What if he refuses to return looted art -- or paintings that were confiscated according to laws enacted under Nazi Germany -- to the heirs of the former victims? Even if these individuals could still be deemed the owners of the artwork, their civil claims to recover their property expired after 30 years. They lapsed a long time ago. 
Bausback: It would be difficult for me to accept that our response to the restitution claims of such owners is that their demands are subject to the statute of limitations. I have therefore instructed my ministry to draw up draft legislation that we soon intend to put forward for debate. This legislation would prevent someone who acquired something in bad faith -- in other words, who knew that the pictures or other objects that he or she had purchased or inherited were sold under pressure by their owners -- from invoking the limitation period for claims under civil law.

November 24, 2013

Robert M. Edsel's Talk at Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Launched "Saving Italy" and the Archives Program

by Tanya K. Lervik

Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis Best-selling author, Robert M. Edsel addressed a packed audience in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's Baird Auditorium this week. The event on November 19th publicized the launch of his newest book, Saving Italy, which celebrates the achievements of two members of the U.S. Army's Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program.

Deane Keller and Fred Hartt risked their lives and put academic careers at Yale on hold to join the race to save Italy's masterpieces. As they traveled with Allied troops, their original mission working to minimize damage and stabilizing threatened works evolved as the scope of Nazi looting became clear. Many priceless artworks from the great museums of Naples and Florence were unceremoniously bundled off with the retreating German forces and used as a pawn by General Karl Wolff, commander of the SS forces in Italy. Without Hitler's knowledge, Wolff secretly negotiated the Nazi surrender with American OSS spymaster, Allen Dulles. Meanwhile, the "Monuments Men" worked tirelessly to retrieve the hostage art and prepare for its eventual triumphant return.

Edsel also spoke about his other efforts to increase public awareness of the legacy of the Monuments Men. The recently publicized discovery of the Gurlitt hoard in Munich highlights the fact that many lost artworks may still be discovered. Edsel hopes that the February 7th film release of "The Monuments Men" which dramatizes his first book will inspire people to consider the importance of preserving art and culture in times of war, and possibly to look more deeply into the history of objects they may have inherited. 

The combined star power of a cast including George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, and John Goodman promises to shine a powerful light on the issue. Edsel hopes to focus that raised interest through his Monuments Men Foundation by asking the public to approach the foundation with tips and questions about objects they may have at home. He pointed out that many of the larger lost artworks are likely to be either lost or to have been confiscated by the retreating Soviet Army, so his aim is to concentrate on smaller, more portable items that may lie the obscurity of personal collections. In this way, Edsel hopes to expand efforts to repatriate looted art. 

Related links: 

See a brief documentary on the wartime exploits of the Monuments Men:

Watch the trailer for the upcoming film version of Edsel’s book: 

View archived Monuments Men documents from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art:

Watch Robert Edsel speak about "Saving Italy" on Book TV:

November 23, 2013

WSJ: "German Museums Under Pressure to Put Collections Online"

Mary M. Lane and Harriet Torry write in the Wall Street Journal Nov. 22 in "German Museums Under Pressure to Put Collections Online":
BERLIN—German museums are coming under growing international pressure to provide digital access to their full collections, in the wake of the discovery of a suspected plundered art trove in Munich that authorities kept secret for nearly two years. Under international norms adopted in Washington in 1998, German museums are obligated to go through their collections for works that may have been looted by the Nazis. But the museums have balked at going a step further and digitizing their collections to allow independent searches, citing budget restrictions and a lack of staff. That reluctance has for years been a source of tension within the art world, with critics alleging other motives. "They don't want to let people see what they have because they know if they put it online they'll get claims and possibly lose major paintings," Ronald Lauder, a billionaire art collector and president of the World Jewish Congress, said in an interview.
Ronald Lauder is the founder of New York City's Neue Gallerie, home to Gustav Klimt's "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer", a work recovered after it was stolen by the Nazis.

November 22, 2013

Museum of the History of the Olympic Games: Seven men sentenced in Patras for theft

The ARCAblog asked Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis, who accepted an award at ARCA's Conference last June, for Greek accounts of the conviction of seven men for the robbery of the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games. Dr. Tsirogiannis recommended this link: Anthi Koutsoubou at News 247 and provided a correct translation:
The conviction of seven people, accused of robbery in the museum of Ancient Olympia in February 2012, was decided by a three-member Criminal Court in Patras on Wednesday, November 20. More specifically,  five of the seven who faced charges [each one of them faced different charges] of robbery, theft of antiquities,  attempted sale of stolen antiquities and attempted murder, were jailed. The man who had entered the museum and grabbed the artifacts received 17 years imprisonment, two were sentenced to six years and two others to seven years. Two Bulgarian defendants, were also found guilty, but were given 2 years suspended sentence and were released. 
The ARCAblog asked Dr. Tsirogiannis if this crime was related to any organized crime.
"I think that it was proved that the hit at the museum was an amateurs' job, as it was the way they tried to sell the gold ring [to undercover police in a hotel in Patras]. Although seven of them (two Bulgarians got two years each, suspended), the group can hardly be named as "organised". It seems that they took advantage of the extremely poor guarding of the museum, for financial reasons. Plus, they were heading to a different museum, the main Archaological Museum of Olympia, aiming to steal ancient gold wreaths and a collection of stamps, but were mistaken and hit another museum nearby, a smaller one! How "organised" is that?"
In February, Elinda Labropoulou for CNN reported on the theft and described the Museum of the History of the Olympics as a smaller building located near the main Archaeological Museum of Olympia.

The mastermind of the theft had intended to sell the gold ring for 1.5 million but the price fell to 300,000 euros. 

From this article (translated here from Greek to English): The gold signet ring dating back to the period of the 16th century BC was the most valuable object of the stolen loot. The ring belonged to a ruler of Anthia and was found in the famous royal tomb "Chang 4" at "Rachi" ara in Antheia Greek Kalamata. The ring shows two male athletes about to participate in an event bull-leaping. The ring had been loaned by the Archaeological Museum of Messenia. In the investigation, scientists of the Division of Criminal Investigation sought information on the DNA of two thieves. Security cameras recorded images from the theft, showing inexperienced looters, furiously grabbing at anything of value.

Dr. Tsirogiannis added in an email:
From the very beginning, immediately after the theft, I pointed out that it would be difficult for the thieves to sell these antiquities because they were very well recorded (, another clue that the thieves did not belong to an "organised" group. Some did not agree with this view at the time ( Paul is a good friend), but the arrest of the thieves, the way it took place, the interrogation and the discovery of all the objects, proved my point.
For another source, MSN distributed the article Agence France-Press, "Seven Sentenced over Olympia Robbery in Greece".

Museum van Bommel van Dam Theft: Art Investigator Arthur Brand provides an update

From the Netherlands, Art investigator Arthur Brand has an update in the case in which he helped return two of the paintings stolen in March 2013 from the Museum van Bommel van Dam (reported in the ARCAblog in August). In an email dated Nov. 21, Mr. Brand wrote:
The man who walked into the police station with me on the 15th of August, delivering two works by Schoonhoven, is still imprisoned, waiting trial. The other day he called me to give me an update. 
According to him, he bought the two works in an official shop. The police went to the shop and interrogated the owner, who denies having sold the artworks. The shop owner stated that this particular kind of receipt was not even used by him. But, in the pretrial, the defense attorney noted that the receipt was signed with a signature that was identical with the shop owner's signature on his statement. 
The defense attorney also asked the judge to hear the director of Sotheby's, the Netherlands, which was granted. Sotheby's had auctioned one of the stolen artworks. Why did Sotheby's not withdraw the artwork after a warning from the ALR that it might be a work stolen three months before, a theft that made headlines? If, according to the lawyer, even the experts at Sotheby's missed it, how could his own client possibly have known that the works were stolen? 
And maybe the most interesting question of all: Why did Sotheby's turn the work 90 degrees before depicting it in their catalogue? 
Anyway, the plot thickens and there might be some surprises left.
Here in September Jacobiene Kuijpers provided a perspective on the case.

November 21, 2013

Knoedler & Company and Julian Weissman: Milton Esterow, Editor and Publisher of ARTnews, on "Fakers, Fakes & Fake Fakers" and the Glafira Rosales Art Fraud Case

In publisher Milton Esterow's article "Fakers, Fakes and Fake Fakers" in ARTNews, he focuses on art forgery and 'well-known forgers reveal the creative methods they use to copy the masters: David Stein (died 1999) who turned out Marc Chagalls; Eric Hebborn (murdered in Rome in 1996) who forged and misattributed to give the art experts something to discover; Leo Stevenson a 'London copyist' who has made copies for the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office; and Elmyr de Hory (suicide in 1976) the subject of Clifford Irving's biography Fake!.
Art forgery has been a hot topic lately since the disclosure that Pei-Shen Qian, a 73-year-old immigrant from China, working out of his home in Queens, reportedly created at least 63 drawings and paintings by Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Franz Kline, and Richard Diebenkorn.
The works were sold or consigned by Glafira Rosales, a dealer of Sands Point, New York, to two Manhattan dealers, Knoedler & Company, which closed in 2011, and Julian Weissman. Over a period of 15 years, the works were sold to collectors for about $80 million. Knoedler, its former president Ann Freedman, and Weissman have consistently stated that they were convinced that the works were authentic. Freedman says she showed the paintings to a number of experts, who confirmed the authenticity and quality of the works. 
The case against Rosales is known as United States of America v. Glafira Rosales, a/k/a “Glafira Gonzalez,” a/k/a “Glafira Rosales Rojas,” defendant. She pleaded guilty in September to charges of wire fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion. As we went to press, no one else had been charged in the case, but Assistant United States Attorney Jason P. Hernandez indicated that additional arrests were contemplated.
In May, 2013, "Manhattan US Attorney Charges Art Dealer with Hiding Millions of Dollars in Income from Fraudulent Sales of Artwork";

In July, 2013, "Long Island Art Dealer Indicted in Massive Art Fraud, Money Laundering, and Tax Scheme"; and

In September 2013, "Art Dealer Pleads Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court to $80 million Fake Art Scam, Money Laundering, and Tax Charges".

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 17, 2013

Gurlitt Art Collection: De Spiegel's Ozlem Guler Scores Interview with reclusive heir Cornelius Gurlitt

Today Ozlem Guler for De Spiegel International Online presents an "Interview with a Phantom: Cornelius Gurlitt Shares the Secrets of His Pictures" (translated from German to English).

Mr. Guler writes that 'perhaps 30' 'strangers' (customs investigators officials from the Augsburg public prosecutors office) 'broke the lock and came in' to Mr. Gurlitt's apartment in Munich in February 2012 and spent four days removing more than 1,000 artworks.
Meanwhile, Gurlitt was expected to sit in a corner and remain quiet. He complied with their wishes, watching as they removed Max Liebermann's "Two Riders on the Beach" from the wall, a work that had hung there for decades, and took the Chagall from the locked wooden cabinet. 

They left nothing behind, not even the small suitcase containing his favorite pictures, a collection of works on paper. For decades, Gurlitt had unpacked the drawings each evening to admire them. Now they were gone and Gurlitt was alone.
Mr. Gurlitt remained in the apartment apparently even when the story broke two weeks ago:
Since that day, Gurlitt has been alone in his bare apartment, in a white-painted building in Munich, a city he calls a prison. And ever since the German newsweekly Focus uncovered the confiscation of his collection two weeks ago, the world's press has been gathering downstairs, outside the front door of his apartment block. Whenever he leaves the building, he is inundated with camera flashes, as if he were a war criminal. Strangers are constantly knocking on his door and sliding letters through the mail slot. 

The works are a sensational treasure trove, including paintings by Marc Chagall, Max Beckmann, Franz Marc, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. The mysterious collection stems from the estate of his father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, an art critic, museum director and art dealer who died in 1956, one of the men who established modern art in Germany and, after 1933, did business with the Nazis. 

This interview in De Spiegel is with the 81-year-old heir of the Hildebrand Gurlitt art collection and provides his point of view of the investigation and the impact on his life, pictured as solitary, cut off from television and the internet, and alone with his paintings -- the Max Liebermann's "Two Riders on the Beach" hung on the wall in his living room for decades. In regards to his father's art dealing:
The family moved around a lot, always following a father who didn't have an easy time because he "wasn't racially flawless," Gurlitt notes. But he always fought and was very clever, he adds. In Hamburg his father registered the art gallery at Klopstockstrasse 35 in his wife's name, with the art dealer himself listed as an employee. Later, in Dresden, Gurlitt says his father didn't register his business at all. Instead, he kept the works of art at home and ran his business from there. "My father was often driven out, he often fell but he always got back up on his feet again."
As for growing up with the paintings and his father's motives, Cornelius Gurlitt is quoted:
He remembers playing among paintings by Liebermann, Beckmann and Chagall when he was a child. They moved with him from city to city, and hung in the living rooms and hallways. His father sorted them and loved them -- and they all bear his mark. He hung the green face by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner on the wall above young Cornelius' bed. "Hitler didn't like green faces," says Gurlitt. In the privacy of their home, the family didn't speak well of the Führer, Gurlitt recalls. His father resisted the dictator, but so surreptitiously that no one noticed it, he adds. 
Hildebrand Gurlitt never bought anything from a private individual, Cornelius insists. Anything else would have been unimaginable for him. The pictures came from German museums or art dealers, Gurlitt says, adding that his father only cooperated with the Nazis because he wanted to save the paintings from being burned. And then he says: "It's possible that my father may have been offered something privately, but he certainly didn't accept it. He would have found that unsavory."
How his father saved the paintings from the Russians:
He helped his father back in Dresden when they saved the works of art from the Russians. People should be thankful to him, he says. "My father knew the Russians were getting closer and closer." 
His father quickly organized a vehicle from the carpool in Dresden, he recalls, and father and son loaded the artwork into the car. His father then brought everything to a farmer near Dresden, and later to a castle in southern Germany. He says that his father knew people everywhere in Germany.
And as for Mr. Gurlitt's opinion:
Gurlitt sees his paintings in the newspapers. He's appalled. "What kind of state is this that puts my private property on display?" he asks. Gurlitt has tears in his eyes. He whispers: "They have to come back to me." 
The next morning, Bavarian Justice Minister Winfried Bausback is quoted in the newspaper as saying that the authorities should definitely speak with Gurlitt. 
It's painful to see Gurlitt being slowly consumed by despair. "They have it all wrong," he says. "I won't speak with them, and I won't voluntarily give back anything, no, no. The public prosecutor has enough that exonerates me." 
Gurlitt hopes the paintings that are rightfully his will soon be returned. He would still like to sell one work, though, perhaps the Liebermann -- if he is entitled to it, as he puts it -- to pay his hospital bills. The remaining paintings should be returned to his apartment, he says. The Chagall will then be put back into the cupboard, and the painting of the woman playing the piano will go in the hallway, where his mother always hung it. 
"I've really missed the paintings -- I notice that now." He says there has been enough public exposure -- of him and his paintings -- and he won't give them to any museum in the world. They have enough other things that they can exhibit, he contends. 
"When I'm dead, they can do with them what they want." But until then, he wants to have them for himself. Then he'll finally have a bit of "peace and quiet" again.

November 16, 2013

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

Der 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", Der Spiegel Online, English, November 11, 2013, by Der 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. 
Der 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.
Der Spiegel's article recounts the family history of Hildebrand Gurlitt (part Jewish from an 'educated middle-class-family'); Hildebrand 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 Der 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, Der 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, Der 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.
By:  Catherine Sezgin