The confiscated collection of Nazi era art belonging Cornelius Gurlitt has gone on display to selected media in Germany. For more than half a century the work was hidden in a small flat in Munich and a damp house in Salzburg . The BBC correspondent Steve Evans was given exclusive access to the high-security storage depot where many of the treasures are stored.
Gurlitt was stopped on a train travelling between his home in Germany and a bank in Switzerland. Customs officials searched the elderly man as part of a routine procedure and discovered about 9,000 euros (£7,500) in cash. Even though it was below the legal limit for carrying cash into the country alarm bells rang and an investigation in Munich occurred.
Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius’ father was a Nazi approved art dealer entrusted by the Third Reich to confiscate valuable works of art from Jewish families to be sold for the war effort. At the same time he amassed his own private collection dying in 1956. In the half century following his death his son lived to preserve the collection built up in the 20s, 30s and 40s.
Gurlitt, who recently has undergone heart surgery and is now recuperating has stated that all works stolen during the war should be returned however much of the collection was acquired by his father legally and that portion of the collection should be returned to him without delay. The works are now stored in an undisclosed warehouse. Experts are scrutinising global records to find out the provenance of the works.
The hoard contains masterpieces by Picasso, Renoir, Monet, Manet, Courbet and Cezanne. One of the more important works is Monet’s depiction of Waterloo Bridge over the Thames in London. Similar works have realised $8m or $9m (£4.8m or £5.4m).Many of the works are in need of cleaning and restoration and could be valued at up to 100 million pounds.