The director of Documenta 14, Adam Szymczyk wants to exhibit the Munich Art Trove ‘belonging’ to the late Cornelius Gurlitt in the next edition of the show, which is due to take place in Kassel and Athens in 2017. Speaking to the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, Szymczyk stated: “I am not interested in an exclusive or first spectacular presentation but I would like to show the entire Gurlitt estate in the political and aesthetic context of Documenta 14. Our exhibition provides a unique and timely public platform for such a presentation.”
Szymczyk, has stated that he had a “very constructive meeting” with Matthias Frehner, the director of the Kunstmuseum Bern – after pursuing the project since his appointment in late 2013. But the museum’s board of trustees were not as enthusiastic and “did not share this interest”, he added. The Director also contacted Monika Grütters, Germany’s minister of culture. The ministry told Szymczyk that works from the trove bequeathed to Kunst Museum Bern, by Gurlitt could only be shown if they remained in Germany “for the purpose of informing about the history of persecution of the original owners” and so that heirs can claim what is rightfully theirs. Szymczyk says that would be “exactly” what would be achieved by showing the entire trove at a venue such as the Neue Galerie in Kassel during Documenta. “In a quiet way, almost neutrally, maybe just arranged chronologically.”
The Munich Art Trove, which comprises well over a thousand works by artists including Picasso, Chagall and Renoir, has been mired in controversy. They were discovered in Gurlitt’s Munich apartment in 2012 during a routine tax investigation. Further works were unearthed at Gurlitt’s house in Salzburg. Cornelius Gurlitt was the son of a notorious Nazi art dealer whose secret collection included many Third Reich looted pieces, died last year aged 81.
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 continued to preserve the collection built up in the 20s, 30s and 40s.