Art Law Report

Germany Identifies Painting from Gurlitt Collection as Nazi-Looted, Progress and Credibility Still Uncertain

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 25, 2017 at 3:28 PM

Only Sixth Work Revealed As Looted Since 2013

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Topics: Cornelius Gurlitt, Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste, Gurlitt Task Force, Nazi-looted art, Munich, Salzburg, NS Raubkunst, Kulturgutschutzgesetz, Kunstmuseum Bern, Monika Grütters, Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund, German Center for Cultural Property Losses, Portrait of a Seated Young Woman, Porträt einer sitzenden jungen Frau, Thomas Couture, Georges Mandel, Rose Valland

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)

Another Bombshell in Munich—Bavarian Government Sold Looted Art to Nazi Families

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 26, 2016 at 4:49 PM

Works returned by Monuments Men to Bavaria for restitution to victims instead sold to Nazis’ families

Journalists Catrin Lorch Jörg Häntzschel published this weekend an explosive revelation in Sueddeutsche Zeitung entitled “the Munich Looted Art Bazaar,” reporting on the work of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe (CLAE): the government of Bavaria sold artworks returned to it after World War II by the famed Monuments Men that were supposed to be restituted to the victims of Nazi looting.  Not only was the art given back to the German state on the explicit condition that it be restituted to the victims of Nazi art plunder, in some cases it was literally returned to the families of Nazi officials, such as Emmy Goering (Hermann’s daughter) and Henriette von Schirach rather than to the victims themselves.  Less than a month after the Federal Republic of Germany’s toxic and revisionist reply brief in the Welfenschatz case (which argued, among other things, that individual claimants cannot sue because the U.S. policy was this national level restitution), the ramifications are far reaching for Germany’s self-professed adherence to the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi Looted Art of 1998.  While the specific artwork in question may be less significant than most of the works found in Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment four years ago, the revelation is in many ways much, much worse.  The CLAE scholarship that lead to this schocking development cannot be praised enough. 

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Topics: Monuments Men, Nazi-looted art, Munich, Gurlitt, NS Raubkunst, Restitution, World War II

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

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

Two Works Found With Gurlitt Cleared for Immediate Restitution, Hundreds More Still in Limbo

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 13, 2015 at 9:04 AM

After months of start/stop and hurry up and wait, the Munich court with jurisdiction over the Gurlitt collection has cleared two paintings for restitution to the heirs of their original owners. David Toren and the Rosenberg family will receive Two Riders on the Beach (Ritter am Strand) by Max Liebermann and Seated Woman by Henri Matisse, respectively. This will also result in the resolution of the only lawsuit to date filed over the Gurlitt case (pending in Washington, DC). Toren and the Rosenbergs are to be congratulated for their perseverance, as should their representatives (again, respectively) August Matteis and Christopher Marinello—particularly after some eleventh-hour victim-blaming.

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Topics: Gurlitt Task Force, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Two Riders on the Beach, August Mattheis and Christopher Marinello, Munich, Rosenbergs, Gurlitt, Restitution, David Toren, World War II, W Wall Street Journal, Ritter am Strand

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

Conflicting Reports About Possible Acceptance of Gurlitt Bequest by Kunstmuseum Bern

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 13, 2014 at 7:02 AM

There have been multiple and conflict reports in the last 48 hours about whether the Kunstmuseum Bern had reached a decision to accept the inheritance from and appointment as heir by Cornelius Gurlitt. Gurlitt, who died in early May shortly after reaching an agreement with the Bavarian prosecutor concerning the 1,280 works of art seized from his apartment on suspicion of Nazi-looting connections, unexpectedly named the Swiss museum as the sole beneficiary of his will, and as his heir and representative. Just last week, the news was that the Kunstmuseum had resolved to decide by late November, no later than six months after being advised of Gurlitt’s bequest.

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Topics: Reuters, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Tages Anzeiger, Munich, Christoph Schäublin, Restitution, Bavaria, Ruth Gilgen Hamisultane, World War II, Swiss, Austria, Sonntagszeitung, Kunstmuseum Bern, Berner Zeitung, Zürich, Nazi Raubkunst, Münchner Kunstfund

Claims by Mendelssohn Bartholdy Heirs over Picasso "Madame Soler" Dismissed, Court Finds No FSIA Jurisdiction After Evidentiary Hearings

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 1, 2014 at 10:49 AM

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has dismissed claims for ownership of Madame Soler by Pablo Picasso, currently at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich. Just as the relevance of Judge Jed Rakoff’s comments over another art restitution case brought by the heirs of Paul von Mendelssohn Bartholdy unexpectedly came to the fore recently, Judge Rakoff’s decision is now the most recent in a line of frustrations for the heirs of Mendelssohn Bartholdy, a victim of Nazi persecution in Berlin in the 1930s. The ramifications of this case may be fairly narrow, however, as the case was premised on allegations of specific transactions in New York rather than general allegations about the conduct of Germany. The claimants could appeal, or perhaps turn to the Limbach Commission if they could be heard (the Pinakothek is a subdivision of Germany for jurisdictional analysis, but it’s unclear at first blush if the Commission would view this claim as within its province).

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Topics: Paul von Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Berlin, commercial activity exception, Cornelius Gurlitt, Florence Kesselstatt, Judge Jed Rakoff, Halldor Soehner, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Julius Schoeps, Upper East Side, Prussia, Max Liebermann, Night Café, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Preussen, France, State Paintings Collection, Madame Soler, Museum of Modern Art, Edelgard von Lavergne-Peguilhen, Van Gogh, Munich, Justin K. Thannhauser, FSIA, expropriation exception”, Nazi persecution, Boy Leading a Horse, Restitution, David Toren, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlung, Bavarian State Ministry for Education and Culture, Free State of Bavaria, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Pinakothek der Moderne, Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Bildung und Kult, Bundesländer, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Freistaat Bayern, Le Moulin de la Galette, Kurt Martin, München, Pablo Picasso, Federal Republic of Germany, Limbach Commission, Wissenschaft und Kunst

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