Gurlitt update: much research, no restitutions.

Posted on: February 24, 2015 by

In a press release last week, the Kunstmuseum Bern explained that, due to the legal challenge to Cornelius Gurlitt’s will by his cousin Uta Werner (discussed by Nina Neuhaus here), there have as yet been no restitutions of artworks from the 2012 Munich art trove, neither by the museum, nor by any other body.

Of course, news that the museum was named sole beneficiary under Gurlitt’s will after his death in May 2014, was followed by a challenge from Werner before the Munich probate court. The legal process is now playing out and until it does there is apparently little wiggle room for the museum to dispose of any of the looted artworks. This includes three paintings that the museum has already agreed should be returned: Matisse’s Seated Woman to the heirs of Paul Rosenberg, Max Liebermann’s Two Riders on a Beach to the heirs of David Friedmann (which includes American David Toren) and a work by Carl Spitzweg.

Regarding the Matisse, there also appear to be documentation problems for some or all of the Rosenberg heirs in proving their status as such. Proof had to be filed with the German Commissioner for Culture and Media, but the museum states that what has been submitted so far ‘falls short of the requirements.’

And so the saga (and the frustrations) continue…

In other news, the museum announced the creation of a new research group to investigate the provenance of the Gurlitt collection. This will be headed up by art historian Oskar Bätschmann and will work in collaboration with the Schwabing Task Force established in Germany in 2013.

So we have yet another action group, but very little action; much by way of research, and no restitutions to speak of.