The New York Times reported yesterday that the German Lost Art Foundation had removed several paintings once owned by the Viennese cabaret actor Fritz Grünbaum from the Lost Art database. While the history of these objects is hotly contested, it was a particularly strange choice given that Grünbaum’s heirs just won a judgment earlier this year that the works by Schiele must be returned to them—by reason of Nazi duress. For a database that has never been suggested as an adjudication of rights but rather as a repository of notice to the world of possible title issues, it was a perplexing choice. Against the backdrop of the party that the German government and the foundation are throwing themselves in November for which few outsiders have been able to register, the explanation appears much less benign particularly against the backdrop of the government’s historical revisionism in U.S. federal court litigation.
Topics: Guelph Treasure, laches, Cornelius Gurlitt, Germany, Nazi-looted art, res judicata, Die Koordinierungsstelle für Kulturgutverluste, Holocaust, Magdeburg, Fritz Grünbaum, NS Raubkunst, Bavaria, Egon Schiele, Mathilde Lukacs, Task Force, New York Times, National Gallery, A Tragic Fate, German Lost Art Foundation, Kieslinger, Woman in a Black Pinafore, Woman Hiding her Face, Charles E. Ramos, Seated Woman With Bent Left Leg (Torso)
Paintings by Beckmann, Gris and Klee Valued at Nearly $20 Million That Once Belonged to Flechtheim Are at Issue in New York Lawsuit
Sullivan & Worcester LLP has filed suit against Bavaria and its state museums in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on behalf of our clients Dr. Michael Hulton and Mrs. Penny Hulton, heirs to the renowned and persecuted Jewish art dealer Alfred Flechtheim. The Hultons have asked the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York to restitute several paintings by Max Beckmann, Paul Klee, and Juan Gris that are now in the possession of the German federal state of Bavaria, Adolf Hitler’s and the Nazi party’s homeland, and its Bavarian State Paintings Collections (known in German as the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, or BSGS). We are aided in this case by our co-counsel Markus Stoetzel and Mel Urbach, Esq.
Topics: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Cornelius Gurlitt, Deutschlandradio. Deutsche Presse Agentur, Monuments Men, Nazi-looted art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Max Beckmann, Markus Stoetzel, Mel Urbach, Paul Klee, FSIA, Gurlitt, NS Raubkunst, Restitution, Bavaria, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, World War II, Alfred Flechteim, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Dr. Michael Hulton, Juan Gris, George Grosz
Supposed Changes to German Advisory Commission on Nazi Looted Art Short on Specifics
There have been a number of articles this week indicating that Germany intends to reform the “Advisory Commission on the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, especially Jewish property” (Beratende Kommission im Zusammenhang mit der Rückgabe NS-verfolgungsbedingt entzogener Kulturgüter, insbesondere aus jüdischem Besitz) that is charged with making recommendations to German museums on claims for art allegedly looted or bought under duress during the Nazi era. Yet the most astonishing part of the news is that it is no news at all. It is merely a repetition—if that—of what was promised in March. Only now it is not even a promise, it is an indication that proposals may be forthcoming at some indefinite point in the future. It is further evidence that the entire endeavor does not deserve to be taken seriously. At best, the “reforms” would address some of the appalling discriminatory comments made earlier this year. But nothing proposed so far would compel a museum to submit to the commission, about which Bavaria in particular—the federal state that isin the midst of its own scandal for returning art to actual Nazis while giving heirs the runaround—notoriously refuses even to appear before the commission
The revelation that Bavaria re-sold looted artworks to Nazi families while giving victims and their heirs the run-around for years has clearly touched a nerve at the Bavarian State Paintings Collection (the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, or BSGS). Days after the Sueddeutsche Zeitung exposed that the Commission for Looted Art in Europe (CLAE) had given the lie to years of deception by the BSGS, the BSGS issued a long, rambling, and defensive statement in defense of its actions. The statement is a classic case of misdirection. Reaction to the story and the BSGS response can be found at the Observerand the Telegraph.
Sophisticated Analysis of Adolph von Menzel Drawing Distinguishes Itself from Recent Revisionism Elsewhere
As the original term of the Gurlitt Task Force (Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund) winds down, the panel has issued a report on a work that it deems appropriate for restitution: Interior of a Gothic Church (Inneres einer gottischen Kirche) by Adolph von Menzel (pencil drawing, signed/dated 1874). The drawing has been called Church in Hofgastein in some English language articles.
Topics: Interior of a Gothic Church, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Nazi Germany, Inneres einer gottischen Kirche, Dresden, Gurlitt Task Force, Adolph von Menzel, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Ernst Julius Wolffson, Washington Principles on Nazi-Looted Art, Advisory Commission, Munich, Albert Martin Wolffson, Salzburg, Restitution, Catrin Lorch, Bavaria, World War II, Switzerland, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Austria, Kunstmuseum Bern, Federal Republic of Germany, Raubkunst, Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund, Elsa Helene Cohen, Limbach Commission, Jörg Häntzschel
A Munich court ruled last week that the will written by Cornelius Gurlitt in the last days of his life that named the Kunstmuseum Bern (an institution with which he had no relationship whatsoever) was valid, rejecting a challenge by Gurlitt’s cousin Uta Werner. It is emblematic of the strange case of Gurlitt and of German’s bizarre handling of the affair, that this decision resolves very few of the pending issues.
Topics: Conny Leaks, Focus, Carl Spitzweg, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Potemkin Village, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Henri Hinrichsen, German Minister of Culture, Uta Werner, Gurlitt Task Force, Max Liebermann, Germany, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Seated Woman, Two Riders on the Beach, Entartete Kunst, Salzburg, Gurlitt, NS Raubkunst, Seuddeutsche Zeitung, Restitution, Catrin Lorch, Bavaria, David Toren, World War II, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Austria, Kunstmuseum Bern, Monika Grütters, Martha Hinrichsen, David Friedmann, Henri Matisse, Jörg Häntzschel, Paul Rosenberg
As the ball teeters above Times Square, and the Glühwein begins to mull on the Art Law Report stove (don’t forget the cinnamon!), a gimmicky but apropos act of reflection is to look back at the biggest stories of 2014, both in art law generally and for yours truly and Sullivan & Worcester LLP. In highly subjective, unverifiable, and immediately criticizeable order, here they are. Thanks as always for reading, and best wishes for in interesting, prosperous New Year. If you agree, disagree, or otherwise, please continue to stay in touch and carry the conversation forward.
Topics: Comedy Central, Deaccession, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Charitable Foundations, National Gallery of Art, Knoedler, Cornelius Gurlitt, Blogs, authentication, authenticity, parody, William Corcoran, Moral Rights, Above the Law, Germany, George Washington University, Glühwein, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Norton Simon, Graffiti Art, Superior Court, Cy Pres, Washington DC, VARA, Detroit Institute of Arts, Bankruptcy, Corcoran College of Art + Design, Dumb Starbucks, Preemption, Asher Edelman, DIA, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, Artmentum GmbH, Bavaria, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, World War II, Copyright, Times Square, Art Fairs, Kunstmuseum Bern, Corcoran Gallery, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Museums, Raubkunst, Detroit Bankruptcy, Fair Use, Münchner Kunstfund, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity, Graffiti, Civil Forfeiture, Art Law Report
As the world adjusts to the announcement last week that the Kunstmuseum Bern has decided to accept Cornelius Gurlitt’s bequest (amid the continuing uncertainty about the validity of the will itself), the most significant development has been the museum’s posting of an inventory of the objects themselves. The museum issued a press release that states:
Topics: Swiss Info, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Monopol, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Entartete Kunst, Restitution, Bavaria, Der Spiegel, Wall Street Journal, World War II, Degenerate Art Action, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Kunstmuseum Bern, Museums, Münchner Kunstfund
With the benefit of (a little) time after the initial announcement that the Kunstmuseum Bern had agreed to accept the inheritance of Cornelius Gurlitt, more information has become available about the agreement with Germany and Bavaria that paved the way for the museum’s decision.
Topics: Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Gurlitt Task Force, YouTube, Gurlitt Collection, Christoph Schäublin, Salzburg, Gurlitt, Restitution, Bavaria, World War II, Erklärung der Bundesregierung der Länder und der k, Kunstmuseum Bern, Washington Principles, Museums, Monika Grütters, Washingtoner Einkommen
As expected, the press conference today in Berlin held by the Kunstmuseum Bern along with German officials announced that the museum has decided to accept the appointment as Cornelius Gurlitt's heir. As we surmised, the decision was accompanied by an agreement concerning the Nazi-looting suspicions that have followed the one time collection of his father Hildebrand Gurlitt. Hildebrand was one of a select few art dealers authorized during the Nazi regime to sell what the authorities deemed "degenerate art" (see link above for more background).
Topics: Swiss Info, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Monopol, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Entartete Kunst, Willbald Gurlitt, Restitution, Bavaria, Der Spiegel, Wall Street Journal, World War II, Degenerate Art Action, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Kunstmuseum Bern, Münchner Kunstfund