Kunstmuseum Bern (Museum of Fine Arts Bern), Switzerland has agreed, today, to accept artworks from the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt’s 1,300 works that has been bequeathed to the museum by the German collector. Christoph Schaeublin of the Bern Art Museum told a news conference in Berlin that the museum would accept parts of the artworks bequeathed by Cornelius Gurlitt, who died in May at the age of 81.
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.
Following the news from the Kunstmuseum Bern today, Christopher A. Marinello, Director of Art Recovery International, who is representing the Rosenbergs in their efforts to recover the Matisse in the Gurlitt trove told Artlyst: “We are grateful to the museum for their commitment to upholding the Washington Principles and we hope now for the expeditious return of all looted works in the Gurlitt bequest to their rightful owners.”
The Kunstmuseum has promised a similar response and 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.
After months of dithering, following international condemnation during the Gurlitt case, the German cabinet had announced plans to create a body to search for works stolen during the Nazi era. The idea would incorporate Berlin’s Bureau for Provenance Research into the German Lost-Art Foundation, basing the operation in the latter’s headquarters in the eastern city of Magdeburg, and increasing its budget by about 5 million euros or 3.9 million pounds. The taskforce had hoped to conclude their research into the works’ provenance by the end of this year. But Bavarian Green party member Sepp Dürr criticised the taskforce highlighting delays in the restitution investigation: “Proven claims have not been processed, heirdom inquiries are being left unanswered, excuses of thoroughness are being used as a pretext to disguise half-hearted research work.” reported in Art Magazine.
As the issue of the bequeathment reached its heated zenith; relations of the Munich collector, cousins, Uta Werner and Dietrich Gurlitt, ordered a psychological evaluation attempting to cast doubt over the Nazi-looted art hoarder’s mental capacity during his final weeks. The evaluation portrayed Gurlitt as vulnerable, paranoid, and schizophrenic; after information taken from Gurlitt’s final letters and documents were taken into consideration. Dr. Helmut Hausner, the lawyer and senior consultant at the Centre for Psychiatry in Cham,who carried out the evaluation, concluded that “during the writing of his will, Gurlitt suffered from mild dementia, a schizophrenic personality disorder, and a delusional disorder.” Reported Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Now that finally Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland, has agreed to accept artworks from Gurlitt’s infamous ‘Munich Art Trove’ – it is only left for us to see how quickly they will attempt restitution of the many works in question – with the Jewish World Congress president Ronald Lauder having publicly threatened the Kunstmuseum Bern with an “avalanche” of lawsuits if the institution accepted the collection.