Vast Trove of Nazi Art Headed to Swiss Museum

But will go through Gurlitt collection, return any pieces that were looted
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 24, 2014 9:32 AM CST
Vast Trove of Nazi Art Headed to Swiss Museum
This May 7, 2014, file photo shows an exterior view of the Kunstmuseum in Bern, Switzerland. The Swiss museum says it will accept art bequeathed to it by German collector Cornelius Gurlitt.   (Gian Ehrenzeller)

A Swiss museum today confirmed that it will accept a priceless collection of long-hidden art bequeathed to it by German collector Cornelius Gurlitt, but it said it will work with German officials to ensure any pieces looted by the Nazis from Jewish owners are returned. German authorities seized 1,280 pieces—including works by Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall—from Gurlitt's apartment in 2012 while investigating a tax case. Gurlitt died in May, designating Switzerland's Kunstmuseum Bern as his sole heir. Shortly before he died, Gurlitt reached a deal with the German government to check hundreds of the works to see if they were looted from Jewish owners by the Nazis. Authorities have said that deal is binding on any heirs; the museum's president says the museum will undertake extensive research to determine the works' provenance.

According to an agreement the museum worked out with German authorities, a task force set up by the government will also continue to investigate the background of the art to determine if it was looted, and from whom. If no owner can be found for a looted piece, the agreement calls for the work to be exhibited in Germany with an explanation of its origins so the "rightful owners will have the opportunity to submit their claims." German officials said all works will remain in Germany until the task force finishes its work. An update on the research is expected "in the course of 2015." One of Gurlitt's cousins has also filed a claim, which a Munich court said today would have to be sorted out before the collection goes anywhere. (More museum stories.)

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