The Gurlitt case enters 2016

Posted on: January 8, 2016 by

Since our last report on the Gurlitt case, there have been several developments. What better way, then, to begin the new year with a post on a story that has been unfolding since 2013? Plus ça change

The German-Bavarian appointed Task Force has now been folded into the German Lost Art Foundation, which will continue administering the remaining provenance research on the roughly 500 works in need of further clarification from the collection. The Foundation assumed its role last spring, but as of 1 January, the beloved Schwabing Task Force became dead letter. The Foundation’s new ‘Gurlitt Provenance Research’ branch will now handle the research. Does this mean that the efficiency of the work will at last increase? Is the change in name and personnel more than merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic? Time alone will tell…

Prior to its winding up, the Task Force did make a fifth recommended restitution in November 2015, this for the return of a drawing by famed German history and landscape artist Adolph Menzel to the heirs of Elsa Wolffson. Wolffson, who was Jewish, had sold the work to Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius’s father, in 1938 prior to fleeing Germany.

And finally, the German court hearing the challenge to Gurlitt’s will by Gurlitt’s cousin Uta Werner had requested an expert report from a psychologist to determine whether Gurlitt was compos mentis when he bequeathed his collection to the Museum of Fine Arts Bern in 2014. The psychiatric report has now been released and concludes that Gurlitt was in fact of sound mind when he made the will.

That’s all for now. Needless to say, we will be expecting this to be yet another year on the Gurlitt rollercoaster… so stay tuned.