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)
Germany has apparently decided to postpone its ill-conceived plans to exhibit the hundreds of works of art that it still holds from the trove seized from the late Cornelius Gurlitt. This decision was announced as a date was set to hear the latest stage of the challenge brought by Gurlitt’s cousin Uta Werner to the will that Gurlitt wrote in the last weeks of his life, leaving the entire collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern. As the Gurlitt fiasco trudges through its fourth year, this move is emblematic of the too little too late approach that has characterized the entire affair.
After months of relative inactivity, there was news this week in the saga of Cornelius Gurlitt, the reclusive German man from whose apartments in Munich and Salzburg more than 1,280 objects were seized as part of a tax investigation, objects that came under suspicion of Nazi looting because of the privileged position held by his father Hildebrand Gurlitt. Unfortunately, the latest news continues a string of public relations efforts that bespeak no real progress as we approach the second anniversary of the public awareness of the story. Quite unlike the plaudits that were thrown around by many last year (though not by us) concerning Germany’s agreement with Gurlitt’s named heir, the reaction has been appropriately skeptical this time.
Topics: cultural property, Sepp Dürr, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Art Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, Cornelius Gurlitt, Bonn Minister of Culture, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Entartete Kunst, Munich, World Jewish Congress, Salzburg, Restitution, Müncher Kunstfund, Der Spiegel, World War II, Task Force, Kunstmuseum Bern, Museums, Monika Grütters, Raubkunst, Green Party, Kunsthalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Ronald Lauder
Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF) reported yesterday that the challenge by Uta Werner to her cousin Cornelius Gurlitt’s will may extend late into this year. Werner has petitioned the court in Munich to set aside the last will and testament that named the Kunstmuseum in Bern as Gurlitt’s sole heir and beneficiary of the 1,280 works of art found in his apartment in 2012, as well as those in Salzburg. In November, the Kunstmuseum, the Bavarian government, and the German government announced to great fanfare but little analysis that the museum would accept the bequest and work with the Gurlitt Task Force to sort through objects with questionable provenance related to Hildebrand Gurlitt’s role as an approved dealer of “degenerate art” under the Nazis, and the concern that some of the objects may be Nazi-looted art.
Topics: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Henri Hinrichsen, Stefan Koldehoff, Die Bilder Sind Unter Uns Das Geschäft mit der NS-, Zwei Reiter am Strand, Max Liebermann, Germany, Fall Gurlitt, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, SRF, Hildebrand Gurltt, will contest, Gurlitt, Restitution, David Toren, World War II, Task Force, Die Zeit, Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen, Kunstmuseum Bern, Martha Hinrichsen, Raubkunst, The Pictures Are Under Us Business in Nazi-Looted, last will and testament
After numerous intimations by German Minister of Culture Monika Grütters, the German federal cabinet announced on Wednesday the official formation of the German Center for Cultural Property Losses (Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste). Citing its “awareness of the special responsibility for the reworking of Nazi art theft,” the ruling CDU coalition issued this statement (my translation):
Topics: Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste, Germany, Minister of Culture Monika Grütters, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Lex Gurlitt, Koordinierungsstelle für Lost Art in Magdeburg, Magdeburg, enteignete Kunst, Gurlitt, NS Raubkunst, Restitution, Task Force, Bundesländer, Lost Art, www.lostart.de, Limbach Commission, Center for Cultural Property Losses
The Augsburg prosecutor for the State of Bavaria announced today that in connection with Monday’s agreement with Cornelius Gurlitt, the 1,280 works of art seized from Gurlitt’s apartment in 2012 have been “returned” to Gurlitt. Though it does not appear that the objects have physically changed locations, the state officially lifted the seizure, and now has access to the collection for further provenance research pursuant to the agreement, rather than the compulsory process by which it retrieved them.
Topics: German Ministry of Culture, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Cornelius Gurlitt, Bundesministerium für Kultur und Medien, Breslau, Augsburg, Willi Korte, London, Max Liebermann, Claude Monet, Christoph Edel, Gurlitt Collection, Ingrid Begreen-Merkel, Alt Ausee, Hildebrandt Gurlitt, stolen art, State of Bavaria, Reiter am Strand, Salzburg, Restitution, David Toren, Müncher Kunstfund, World War II, Task Force, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Freistaat Bayern, NS-beschlagnahmte Kunst, www.lostart.de, Monika Grütters, Riders on the Beach, Raubkunst, Bayerisches Staatsministerium der Justiz, Bavarian Ministry of Justice, Henri Matisse, Paul Rosenberg
Whether Austrian Trove is Included So Far Unmentioned In Reports of Agreement
On the heels of last night’s “60 Minutes” treatment of the Gurlitt saga (which featured Willi Korte and Ingeborg Berggreen-Merkel, two participants at January’s Ersessene Kunst-Der Fall Gurlitt at which I also spoke), news has come today that Cornelius Gurlitt has signed an agreement with the German federal government and the Bavarian Ministry of Justice with respect to the artworks taken from his apartment in 2012. Where recent statements that he intended to return what had been stolen left that outcome entirely to his discretion, he now seems to have committed expressly to some sort of return protocol. The precise details are still unknown.
Topics: German Ministry of Culture, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Cornelius Gurlitt, Bundesministerium für Kultur und Medien, Willi Korte, London, Claude Monet, Christoph Edel, Gurlitt Collection, Ingrid Begreen-Merkel, Alt Ausee, Hildebrandt Gurlitt, stolen art, Salzburg, Restitution, Müncher Kunstfund, Task Force, NS-beschlagnahmte Kunst, www.lostart.de, Monika Grütters, Raubkunst, Bayerisches Staatsministerium der Justiz, Bavarian Ministry of Justice, Henri Matisse, Paul Rosenberg
Cornelius Gurlitt’s legal team has posted a new website called "Gurlitt Info" in similar (but not identical) German and English versions that is so contradicted by the repeated disclosures by the German government, that it is hard to imagine its intended purpose. As a public relations move, it is a disaster. The tactic may explain why the Augsburg prosecutor rejected the possibility of a deal with Gurlitt: he knows what he is dealing with. At the same time, the draft amendment to the statute of limitations, the Cultural Property Restitution Law (or "Lex Gurlitt," as it has somewhat misleadingly become known) is now formally before the Bundesrat for consideration as to whether to introduce the draft to the full Bundestag and possible enactment as the law of Germany. Bavarian Cultural Minister Winfried Bausbeck discusses the law here in a recent interview.
Topics: Cultural Property Restitution Law, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Bayern, Nazi stolen art, Hannes Hartung, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Gurlitt Info, Führermuseum, Germany, Gurlitt Collection, Lex Gurlitt, Red Army, Entartete Kunst, Winfried Bausbeck, Gurlitt Facts, Beutekunst, Salzburg, Bundestag, Bundesrat, Gurlitt, Restitution, Statute of Limitations, Augusburg, Bavaria, Linz, Der Spiegel, World War II, Task Force, degenerate art, Cultural Minister, Austria, Justizminister, www.lostart.de, Soviet Union, Washington Principles, Raubkunst, Verjährung, Kulturgut-Rückwehr-Gesetz, Münchner Kunstfund