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Swiss art museum reportedly to accept Gurlitt collection

Hundreds of works may include Nazi-looted art; museum said it will only take those for which there are no restitution claims

Otto Griebel's 'Kind am Tisch' ('Child at a Table'), among the seized works of art that were in the possession of Cornelius Gurlitt. (photo credit: AP/Staatsanwaltschaft Augsburg)
Otto Griebel's 'Kind am Tisch' ('Child at a Table'), among the seized works of art that were in the possession of Cornelius Gurlitt. (photo credit: AP/Staatsanwaltschaft Augsburg)

The Swiss art museum that German art collector Cornelius Gurlitt named as its sole heir reportedly agreed to accept the bequest of hundreds of works, which may include Nazi-looted art.

The Bern Art Museum’s decision was reported by the Swiss newspaper Sonntagszeitung. According to the newspaper, the museum will only accept works for which there are no restitution claims.

In a tweet Monday, however, the museum said the newspaper report was inaccurate and that a final decision will be made during a board of trustees meeting at the end of November.

The collection reportedly is worth about $1.26 billion.

“The Board of Trustees and directors of Kunstmuseum Bern are surprised and delighted, but at the same time do not wish to conceal the fact that this magnificent bequest brings with it a considerable burden of responsibility and a wealth of questions of the most difficult and sensitive kind, and questions in particular of a legal and ethical nature,” the museum said in a statement in May when it learned it was named Gurlitt’s “unrestricted and unfettered sole heir.”

A combination of photos released by prosecutors in Augsburg, Germany on November 12, 2013 show five of the 1,400 paintings believed looted by the Nazis, seized from a Munich flat of Cornelius Gurlitt.  (photo credit: Lostart.de/Augsburg prosecutors/AFP/File)
A combination of photos released by prosecutors in Augsburg, Germany on November 12, 2013 show five of the 1,400 paintings believed looted by the Nazis, seized from a Munich flat of Cornelius Gurlitt. (photo credit: Lostart.de/Augsburg prosecutors/AFP/File)

The museum said it had no prior relationship with Gurlitt.
Some 1,400 works were confiscated from his Munich home in 2012 in the course of an investigation for tax evasion. Other works were subsequently found in Gurlitt’s second home in Salzburg, Austria.

Cornelius Gurlitt, on the cover of  Der Spiegel, November 2013 (photo credit: YouTube screen cap)
Cornelius Gurlitt, on the cover of Der Spiegel, November 2013 (photo credit: YouTube, screen capture)

Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand, was an art dealer on assignment to the Nazis. When Hildebrand Gurlitt died in 1956, his son inherited the collection, which includes works by Picasso, Durer, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Beckmann and Matisse.

In April, Gurlitt signed an agreement with the state of Bavaria and the German federal government in which the provenance of all works would be researched, paving the way for the return of the paintings to the heirs of the rightful owners.

The work of the task force in searching for possible rightful owners has continued despite Gurlitt’s death.

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