Kunstmuseum Bern (Museum of Fine Arts Bern), Switzerland has accepted the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt’s 1,300 works that has been bequeathed to the museum by German collector, according to a report in the Swiss newspaper Sonntagszeitung. The report comes ahead of an official announcement scheduled for November 26. But as yet this has not been verified officially.
According to authorities and the Kunstmuseum Bern that a conclusion regarding the museum’s acceptance of the collection had not yet been reached but that negotiations were going smoothly, this was told to Der Bund. The museum instead stated that it was up to its board to decide whether or not to accept the works. According to the Sonntagszeitung, the discussions are not expected to be lengthy and are a matter of approving conditions that were predetermined, as negotiated between the museum leadership and German authorities will occur on November 26th.
The collection has been known colloquially as the “Munich Art Trove,” and collated by Cornelius Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand Gurlitt. Gurlitt senior was one of four art dealers entrusted with selling so-called degenerate art during the Nazi regime’s rule. The collection includes a number high-value works from the period by Henri Matisse, Max Liebermann, Otto Dix, and Marc Chagall, among others. Originally estimated at the value of nearly £700 million – the value has dropped significantly as many pieces are believed to have been looted from Jewish families by the Nazis.
Now according to the report, the Kunstmuseum will not be taking possession of any works that have a pending claim. This includes some 300 of the 1,300 works that have arisen particular suspicion due to a restitution claims already in place by families or individuals claiming to be the art works’ rightful heirs. There is also the issue of research already undertaken by the task force led by lawyer Ingeborg Berggreen-Merkel assigned by the Bavarian government to check the provenance of the collection’s works.
That the Kunstmuseum Bern won’t accept any of the works suspected of having Nazi ties is hardly surprising. Yet there is a further stipulation that all of the works will remain in Germany. It is thought that the museum is particularly wary of future restitution claims that could arise against works currently not suspected to be Nazi loot but which may reveal questionable histories.
In a further statement the museum will reportedly return any work to a German institution if the work can be identified as having come from that institution. It is also reported that a mandatory exhibition of all works from the Gurlitt collection be mounted in Germany as soon as is possible.