Art Law Report

Gurlitt Bequest to Kunstmuseum Bern is Upheld, Little Else Resolved

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 30, 2015 at 10:05 AM

A Munich court ruled last week that the will written by Cornelius Gurlitt in the last days of his life that named the Kunstmuseum Bern (an institution with which he had no relationship whatsoever) was valid, rejecting a challenge by Gurlitt’s cousin Uta Werner. It is emblematic of the strange case of Gurlitt and of German’s bizarre handling of the affair, that this decision resolves very few of the pending issues.

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Topics: Conny Leaks, Focus, Carl Spitzweg, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Potemkin Village, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Henri Hinrichsen, German Minister of Culture, Uta Werner, Gurlitt Task Force, Max Liebermann, Germany, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Seated Woman, Two Riders on the Beach, Entartete Kunst, Salzburg, Gurlitt, NS Raubkunst, Seuddeutsche Zeitung, Restitution, Catrin Lorch, Bavaria, David Toren, World War II, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Austria, Kunstmuseum Bern, Monika Grütters, Martha Hinrichsen, David Friedmann, Henri Matisse, Jörg Häntzschel, Paul Rosenberg

Gurlitt Collection Information Finally On View, Provenance Details Still Needed

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 1, 2014 at 9:15 AM

As the world adjusts to the announcement last week that the Kunstmuseum Bern has decided to accept Cornelius Gurlitt’s bequest (amid the continuing uncertainty about the validity of the will itself), the most significant development has been the museum’s posting of an inventory of the objects themselves. The museum issued a press release that states:

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Topics: Swiss Info, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Monopol, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Entartete Kunst, Restitution, Bavaria, Der Spiegel, Wall Street Journal, World War II, Degenerate Art Action, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Kunstmuseum Bern, Museums, Münchner Kunstfund

Kunstmuseum Bern Accepts Appointment as Cornelius Gurlitt's Heir, Agreement with Germany

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 24, 2014 at 1:50 AM

As expected, the press conference today in Berlin held by the Kunstmuseum Bern along with German officials announced that the museum has decided to accept the appointment as Cornelius Gurlitt's heir. As we surmised, the decision was accompanied by an agreement concerning the Nazi-looting suspicions that have followed the one time collection of his father Hildebrand Gurlitt. Hildebrand was one of a select few art dealers authorized during the Nazi regime to sell what the authorities deemed "degenerate art" (see link above for more background).

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Topics: Swiss Info, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Monopol, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Entartete Kunst, Willbald Gurlitt, Restitution, Bavaria, Der Spiegel, Wall Street Journal, World War II, Degenerate Art Action, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Kunstmuseum Bern, Münchner Kunstfund

Gurlitt Relatives Formally Challenge Will that Named Kunstmuseum Bern as Heir

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 21, 2014 at 5:46 AM

When we wrote yesterday that everything had been said before seeing how the press conference plays out on Monday at which the Kunstmuseum Bern and Germany will make an announcement, it was somewhat tongue in cheek. Today provides an example why: relatives of Cornelius Gurlitt, who would be his heirs at law in the absence of the will that named the Kunstmuseum Bern as his heir, formally announced a challenge to that will today in a Munich court.

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Topics: Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Monopol, Uta Werner, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Dietrich Werner, Entartete Kunst, Munich, Willbald Gurlitt, Restitution, Bavaria, World War II, Degenerate Art Action, Helmut Hausner, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Kunstmuseum Bern, Museums, Münchner Kunstfund

Gurlitt and Kunstmuseum Bern Press Conference in Berlin Monday November 24, 2014

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 20, 2014 at 9:35 AM

The federal government of Germany, the Bavarian Ministry of Culture, and the Kunstmuseum Bern announced today that they will hold a joint press conference on Monday November 24, 2014 concerning the bequest by Cornelius Gurlitt to the Swiss museum when he died. It seems hard to imagine that such an event would announce anything other than acceptance by the museum and perhaps some sort of side agreement with Germany and/or Bavaria.

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Topics: Swiss Info, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Monopol, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Entartete Kunst, Willbald Gurlitt, Restitution, Bavaria, Der Spiegel, Wall Street Journal, World War II, Degenerate Art Action, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Kunstmuseum Bern, Münchner Kunstfund

If the Kunstmuseum Bern Says No: Gurlitt Heirs Discuss Plans if They Inherit Schwabing Trove

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 14, 2014 at 7:12 AM

As the November 26, 2014 deadline approaches by which the Kunstmuseum Bern must accept or reject the appointment as Cornelius Gurlitt’s heir and the bequest of the paintings seized by the Bavarian government on suspicions of Nazi-looting concerns (as well as those in other countries that were not seized), most observers expect the museum to accept the appointment, albeit perhaps with some side agreement with the German government. But what if the museum says no? Reports floated this week of what Gurlitt’s heirs-at-law might do in that event.

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Topics: Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Monopol, SZ, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Entartete Kunst, Willbald Gurlitt, Restitution, Bavaria, World War II, Degenerate Art Action, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Kunstmuseum Bern, Münchner Kunstfund

Reports that Gurlitt Task Force May Not Meet Deadline—What Happens Then?

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 10, 2014 at 9:47 AM

There were reports over the weekend that the Gurlitt Task Force, currently reviewing the provenance of more than 900 of the 1,280 works of art seized from Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment, may not complete that review within the year reportedly set out in the agreement between Bavaria and Gurlitt before he died. There is still confusion about whether the Task Force was indeed foreshadowing a missed deadline (the agreement was in April, so the notion that the review would continue “into 2015” is not necessarily inconsistent with completing its task within one year), but assuming it was, what happens then?

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Topics: Focus, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Gurlitt Task Force, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Commission for Looted Art in Europe, Entartete Kunst, Anne Webber, Restitution, Der Spiegel, World War II, degenerate art, Kunstmuseum Bern, verschollene Kunst, Münchner Kunstfund

One Year After Gurlitt Revelation, No One is Pleased

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 5, 2014 at 8:59 AM

It has now been one year since Focus magazine in Germany broke the Cornelius Gurlitt story on November 3, 2013. Looking back at the history of the case as it has unfolded since then, the overriding theme has been difficulty in obtaining accurate information about the current state of affairs. The appointed Task Force has made only two recommendations, and the status of the bequest to the Kunstmuseum Bern is still up in the air. And nobody seems remotely pleased.

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Topics: Focus, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Drefsden, Gurlitt Task Force, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Lex Gurlitt, Entartete Kunst, Salzburg, Bundesrat, Restitution, Der Spiegel, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Switzerland, degenerate art, Kunstmuseum Bern, verschollene Kunst, Münchner Kunstfund, Ronald Lauder

Are “Flight Goods” Different than Looted Art? Questions About Fair Value and Duress in Wartime Resonate After Recent Limbach Commission Decision

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on September 3, 2014 at 8:32 AM

A conference was held last week at the Oskar Reinhart Museum in Winterthur, Switzerland, entitled “Fluchtgut: Geschichte, Recht und Moral” (Flight Goods: History, Law and Morality). The objective conference was described in its program as follows (my translation):

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Topics: Expressionist, Esther Tisa Francini, Allied Collecting Points, Südkurier, Auctions, Florian Weiland, Oskar Reinhart Museum, Dresden, Karl Schmidt-Rotluff, Nazi-looted art, Robert Graetz, Buchholz Gallery, German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultu, Winterthur, Entartete Kunst, Beratende Kommission, Curt Valentin, Restitution, Melissa Müller, Luzern, Clara Levy, Farm in Dangast, Fluchtgut: Geschichte Recht und Moral, Lucas Elmenhorst, Luxembourg, Looted Art, World War II, Lucerne, Switzerland, degenerate art, Handelsblatt, Lost Lives Lost Art Jewish Collectors Nazi Art The, Galerie Fischer, Imke Gielen, Washingtoner Prinzipien, Jutta Limbach, Washington Principles, Drei Grazien, Flight Goods: History Law and Morality, Lovis Corinth, Monika Tatzkow, Three Graces, Bavarian State Painting Collections, Raubkunst, Hans Posse, Limbach Commission, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen

Limbach Commission Rules Against Claimants to Restitution of “Three Graces” by Lovis Corinth in Unpersuasive Opinion

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 28, 2014 at 8:17 AM

The German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultural Property Seized as a Result of Nazi Persecution, Especially Jewish Property (Beratende Kommission) has issued its latest decision concerning allegedly Nazi-looted art in German museums. For the second case in a row after the widely (and wisely) derided opinion not to restitute the Welfenschatz or Guelph Treasure at the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin, the commission (known for its presiding member, former German Supreme Constitutional Court judge Jutta Limbach) has recommended against restitution, this time over the claim by heirs of Clara Levy to The Three Graces (Drei Grazien) by Lovis Corinth (1902/1904). The decision (available only in German) is riddled with poor logic and basic historical errors. In short, while it may be that the painting was indeed delivered to Clara Levy’s daughter in the United States at Clark’s express instruction, that is far less clear than the commission states, and its decision further makes a number of assumptions about the circumstances of Jews in occupied or about-to-be occupied territories that undermine its credibility considerably.

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Topics: Berlin, Else Bergmann, Schleifmühle, Guelph Treasure, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Ludwig Levy, Fritz Levy, Rita Hubbard, Germany, Nazi-looted art, bill of lading, Especially Jewish Property, Buchholz Gallery, Madame Soler, German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultu, San Francisco, Entartete Kunst, Beratende Kommission, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, FSIA, Curt Valentin, expropriation exception”, Gurlitt, Restitution, Max Huggler, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Clara Levy, Sigfried Rosengart, Luxembourg, Henry Zacharias, Compagnie Generale Transatlantique Hol Lesquette, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Pinakothek der Moderne, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Jutta Limbach, Kunstmuseum Bern, Drei Grazien, Pablo Picasso, Lovis Corinth, Museums, Three Graces, Bavarian State Painting Collections, Federal Republic of Germany, Paula Levy, Kurt Buchholz, Welfenschatz, Limbach Commission, New York, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen

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