Art Law Report

Gurlitt Bequest to Kunstmuseum Bern is Upheld

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 15, 2016 at 9:48 AM

Cousin Had Challenged His Capacity to Make a Will Shortly Before 2014 Death

After a two-year legal battle, the Oberlandesgericht in Munich has upheld the dismissal of Uta Werner’s challenge to the will made by Cornelius Gurlitt in 2014 that designated the Kunstmuseum Bern as his heir, including the bequest of his controversial painting collection.  Less than six months after it was revealed in November 2013 that the Bavarian authorities had seized 1,280 objects from his Schwabing home in Munich, Gurlitt wrote a will that designated that his entire collection would go to the Swiss museum.  Barring some extraordinary appeal, the bequest will now be final and the collection will go to Switzerland.  While lifting considerable uncertainty about the fate of the collection as a whole, this development does not address the lack of clarity about the process by which the objects that are suspected of having been looted by the Nazis will be examined or returned.

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Topics: Bayern, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Nazi-looted art in Munich, SZ, Uta Werner, Nazi-looted art, Oberlandesgericht, Munich, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Gurlitt, NS Raubkunst, Catrin Lorch, Free State of Bavaria, Kunstmuseum Bern, Washington Principles, Jörg Häntzschel, Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB)

Potemkin Village Deferred—Planned Exhibition of Gurlitt Trove is Postponed

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on April 21, 2016 at 1:07 PM

Germany has apparently decided to postpone its ill-conceived plans to exhibit the hundreds of works of art that it still holds from the trove seized from the late Cornelius Gurlitt. This decision was announced as a date was set to hear the latest stage of the challenge brought by Gurlitt’s cousin Uta Werner to the will that Gurlitt wrote in the last weeks of his life, leaving the entire collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern. As the Gurlitt fiasco trudges through its fourth year, this move is emblematic of the too little too late approach that has characterized the entire affair.

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Topics: Schwabinger Kunstfund, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt, Restitution, World War II, Task Force, Kunstmuseum Bern, Monika Grütters, Raubkunst

Gurlitt Task Force Issues Fifth Recommendation for Restitution

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 15, 2015 at 4:51 AM

Sophisticated Analysis of Adolph von Menzel Drawing Distinguishes Itself from Recent Revisionism Elsewhere

As the original term of the Gurlitt Task Force (Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund) winds down, the panel has issued a report on a work that it deems appropriate for restitution: Interior of a Gothic Church (Inneres einer gottischen Kirche) by Adolph von Menzel (pencil drawing, signed/dated 1874). The drawing has been called Church in Hofgastein in some English language articles.

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Topics: Interior of a Gothic Church, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Nazi Germany, Inneres einer gottischen Kirche, Dresden, Gurlitt Task Force, Adolph von Menzel, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Ernst Julius Wolffson, Washington Principles on Nazi-Looted Art, Advisory Commission, Munich, Albert Martin Wolffson, Salzburg, Restitution, Catrin Lorch, Bavaria, World War II, Switzerland, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Austria, Kunstmuseum Bern, Federal Republic of Germany, Raubkunst, Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund, Elsa Helene Cohen, Limbach Commission, Jörg Häntzschel

Gurlitt Collection May be Displayed Next Year, Real Progress Still Elusive as Focus Remains on Public Relations

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 13, 2015 at 7:43 AM

After months of relative inactivity, there was news this week in the saga of Cornelius Gurlitt, the reclusive German man from whose apartments in Munich and Salzburg more than 1,280 objects were seized as part of a tax investigation, objects that came under suspicion of Nazi looting because of the privileged position held by his father Hildebrand Gurlitt. Unfortunately, the latest news continues a string of public relations efforts that bespeak no real progress as we approach the second anniversary of the public awareness of the story. Quite unlike the plaudits that were thrown around by many last year (though not by us) concerning Germany’s agreement with Gurlitt’s named heir, the reaction has been appropriately skeptical this time.

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Topics: cultural property, Sepp Dürr, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Art Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, Cornelius Gurlitt, Bonn Minister of Culture, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Entartete Kunst, Munich, World Jewish Congress, Salzburg, Restitution, Müncher Kunstfund, Der Spiegel, World War II, Task Force, Kunstmuseum Bern, Museums, Monika Grütters, Raubkunst, Green Party, Kunsthalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Ronald Lauder

“Between Fairness and Justice for Successors and Possessors”—an Upcoming Conference at the Oskar Reinhart Museum in Winterthur

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 24, 2015 at 5:37 AM

I won’t be in the neighborhood, but the Oskar Reinhart Museum in Winterthur (Switzerland) is putting on a conference for the second year in a row on August 31. 2015 wrestling with the issue of “flight goods” in particular. “Flight goods” refers to property that was not stolen outright, nor sold under duress, but left behind because of a flight in haste from persecution. Awareness has increased in recent years about this as a category of looted property to be addressed. As with other categories, issues of law, morality, and the rights of subsequent good faith owners/possessors make for interesting discussions. Notable presenters include Matthias Frehner, whose Kunstmuseum Bern is grappling with the Gurlitt bequest, and Anja Heuss, whose Staatsgalerie Stuttgart recently restituted a work to the heirs of I. Rosenbaum. All the speakers and topics look excellent.

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Topics: Berlin, Dr. Peter Raue, Walter Feilchenfeldt, Esther Tisa Francini, Museum Rietberg, Olaf Ossmann, Cornelius Gurlitt, Marc Fehlmann, Art Dealers Association of Switzerland, Between Fairness and Justice for Successors and Po, Oskar Reinhart Museum, Anja Heuss, Kulturstiftung der Länder, Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste, Claudius Ochsner, Matthias Frehner, Alexander Jolles, Winterthur, Dr. Stephanie Tasch, Kunsthandelsverband der Schweiz, Karin Salm, Universität Salzburg, Thomas Buomberger, Restitution, Events, Johannes Nathan, Looted Art, World War II, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Switzerland, Kunstmuseum Bern, Andrea Baresel-Brand, flight goods, Zürich, Prof. Dr. Georg Graf, Radio SRF 2, I. Rosenbaum, Sibylle Ehringhaus

Munich Court Requests Psychological Opinion Concerning Gurlitt’s Competence to Make Will

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 14, 2015 at 5:57 AM

Even as we creep up on the anniversary of the theatrical announcement of an agreement between Bavaria, Germany, and the Kunstmuseum Bern concerning the bequest of Cornelius Gurlitt, the court challenge by Gurlitt’s family is by no means over. News came this week that the Munich court overseeing the appeal of the initial denial of the will challenge has requested an expert opinion concerning Gurlitt’s psychological state.

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Topics: Cornelius Gurlitt, Gurlitt Task Force, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Amtsgericht, Oberlandesgericht, Munich, Restitution, World War II, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Kunstmuseum Bern, Raubkunst

First Painting Restituted from Gurlitt Trove to be Sold; Appellate Court in Munich Breathes New Life Into Will Contest

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 25, 2015 at 2:40 AM

After the restitution of the first two works of Nazi-looted art from the trove of works found in the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, David Toren has announced his intention to auction his work, Two Riders on the Beach by Max Liebermann. Toren, now more than 90 years old, remembers the theft of the painting from his uncle David Friedmann in Breslau (now Wrocław). Toren is the only claimant to date to have filed litigation over the Gurlitt case. Sotheby’s will auction the work on June 24. Toren explained his motivation for the sale as follows:

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Topics: Petra Willner, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Wrocław, Zwei Reiter am Strand, Uta Werner, Max Liebermann, Gurlitt Collection, Two Riders on the Beach, Verena Osgyan, Oberlandesgericht, Gurlitt, Restitution, David Toren, World War II, Mittelbayerische Zeitung, Kunstmuseum Bern, Museums, Berner Zeitung, David Friedmann

Gurlitt Cousin Appeals Dismissal of Will Contest

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on April 29, 2015 at 11:08 AM

Uta Werner has appealed the adverse decision of the Munich court last month with respect to her challenge to Cornelius Gurlitt’s will. Werner, the cousin of Cornelius Gurlitt, argued that the will written by Gurlitt that named the Kunstmuseum Bern as his heir (and thus to his art collection). The Munich court previously upheld the will, making the Bern museum the sole heir to Gurlitt in all respects, including not only the trove found in Munich but some 200 (arguably more significant) works found in his Salzburg, Austria home.

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Topics: Cornelius Gurlitt, Uta Werner, Gurlitt Task Force, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Restitution, World War II, Kunstmuseum Bern, Raubkunst

Gurlitt Task Force Issues Fourth Restitution Recommendation in 14 Months

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on April 6, 2015 at 7:55 AM

Shortly after reports that two of the objects found in Cornelius Gurlitt’s possession in 2012 would “be restituted “soon” to the families from which they were looted under Nazi auspices pursuant to the three recommendations of the Gurlitt Task Force to date, the Task Force has now issued a fourth recommendation. The newest work to be identified for restitution is a Camille Pissarro painting, The Seine seen from the Pont-Neuf, the Louvre in the background.

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Topics: Guelph Treasure, Cornelius Gurlitt, Uta Werner, Gurlitt Task Force, Gurlitt Collection, Salzburg, Restitution, District Court of Munich, World War II, Camille Pissarro, The Seine seen from the Pont-Neuf the Louvre in th, Kunstmuseum Bern, www.lostart.de, Museums, Monika Grütters, Deutsches Zentrum für Kulturgutverluste, German Cultural Property Center, Minister of Culture

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

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