Art Law Report

Methinks Thou Doth Protest too Much—Bavaria Scrambles Defensively After Revelation of Looted Art Sales to Nazi Families

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 1, 2016 at 5:50 AM

The revelation that Bavaria re-sold looted artworks to Nazi families while giving victims and their heirs the run-around for years has clearly touched a nerve at the Bavarian State Paintings Collection (the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, or BSGS). Days after the Sueddeutsche Zeitung exposed that the Commission for Looted Art in Europe (CLAE) had given the lie to years of deception by the BSGS, the BSGS issued a long, rambling, and defensive statement in defense of its actions.  The statement is a classic case of misdirection.  Reaction to the story and the BSGS response can be found at the Observerand the Telegraph

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Topics: Bayern, Nazi-looted art, Commission for Looted Art in Europe, Restitution, Bavaria, World War II, Raubkunst, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen

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

Germany Relents on Nazi-Looted Art Advisory Commission Jewish Membership

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 11, 2016 at 5:35 PM

Barely a week ago German Minister of Culture Monika Grütters was dismissively rejecting any changes to the Advisory Commission that issues recommendations on claims of Nazi-looted art in German museums. Today, in a classic Friday afternoon news dump, Germany caved to a drumbeat of pressure to include Jewish members of the Commission, pressure that began right here and continued with the support of colleagues and friends around the world. The lesson? No voice is too small to make a difference.

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Topics: Germany, Nazi-looted art, Restitution, World War II, Monika Grütters, Raubkunst, Limbach Commission

Germany Keeps Digging—Explanation for Excluding Jewish Member from Nazi-looted Art Advisory Commission is Worse than Before

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 9, 2016 at 5:02 PM

 

Last week Germany’s Minister of Culture Monika Grütters made the astonishing statement that the Advisory Commission that issues recommendations for questions of allegedly Nazi-looted art in German museums would not be revised to include a member of the Jewish community because that Jewish member “would be the only voice who would be prejudiced.” The statement was not idle gossip, it was to the New York Times, which was writing a feature piece about her. This was a shockingly tone-deaf statement for a German cabinet member to make. Even in a vacuum, it is logically indefensible; why would a Jewish member be more biased than a German member (about which she had no objection). And, of course, it is not a vacuum—we are talking about Germany.

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Topics: Germany, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Advisory Commission, Restitution, Monika Grütters, Raubkunst, Limbach Commission

Live from the Oscars! German Cultural Ministry Disparages Possible Inclusion of Jewish Member on Advisory Commission

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 3, 2016 at 11:10 AM
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Topics: Ronald S. Lauder, Guelph Treasure, Gurlitt Task Force, Germany, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt, Restitution, Monika Grütters, Raubkunst, Limbach Commission

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

Widespread Criticism Continues from Historians Over Germany’s and SPK’s Revisionism Concerning Holocaust and Forced Sales of Art

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 19, 2015 at 12:48 PM

We reported last week on the outrage over the decision by Germany and the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (SPK) to argue in their motion to dismiss my clients’ claims to the Welfenschatz that a commercial interaction between German Jews and a cabal instigated by Hermann Goering in 1935 “predated the Holocaust by several years.” As we noted last week, the suggestion that the Holocaust was a distant possibility in 1935 was an indefensible statement, factually, historically, and ethically. The initial reaction was swift and severe. As Germany gets ready to host the First Conference of the German Centre for Cultural Property Losses next week, its policies are hurtling in the wrong direction.

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Topics: Jewish Week Mel Urbach, Hermann Goering First Conference of the German Cen, Guelph Treasure, Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums, Henning Kahmann, Atlanta, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Varda Neumann Federal Administrative Court, Yale University, Marion Kaplan, New York University, Germany, Nazi-looted art, Hitler, Kristallnacht Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Markus Stoetzel, Emory University, Behrens, Holocaust, Bloodlands, SPK, Advisory Commission, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Restitution, Los Angeles, World War II, Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil, Washington, Raubkunst, Timothy Snyder, Welfenschatz

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

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

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