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)

Senate Appropriations Committee Bill Would Give Strong Backing To State Department on Holocaust-Era Assets

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 21, 2015 at 5:20 AM

The United States Senate Appropriations Committee has passed its annual State Department appropriations bill, and it includes a strong instruction on Holocaust-era looted assets. The bill, entitled the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2016 (S. 1725) was accompanied by the Committee’s report, which would direct the State Department to include in an annual report an assessment of U.S. domestic law and foreign countries’ status on their compliance with the Washington Principles and the Terezin Declaration. As the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) observed last year, that progress is mixed, at best. This is a budget bill, meaning it is just the first step in allocating resources for the U.S. government in the year to come (in this case, for the State Department).

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Topics: Legislation, looted property, Office of the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, Terezin Declaration, S. 1725, Georg Baselitz, Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscat, 2009 Terezin Declaration, Holocaust, World Jewish Restitution Organization, Department of State Foreign Operations and Related, Report on International Religious Freedoms, 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, WJRO, Restitution, Nazi-looted, Secretary of State, World War II, United States Senate Appropriations Committee, Gerhard Richter, Washington Principles, Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germa

Tate Backtracks on Restitution of Constable Painting

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 31, 2015 at 5:58 AM

As if there weren't enough controversy with national advisory commissions' recommendations about Nazi-looted art, the Tate Gallery in London is apparently reconsidering a recommendation last year by the United Kingdom’s Spoliation Advisory Panel that Beaching a Boat, Brighton (1824) by John Constable should be restituted to heirs of Budapest-based Baron Ferenc Hatvany, who was Jewish.

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Topics: John Constable, Soviet, Budapest, Worcestershire, London, The Art Newspaper, Beaching a Boat Brighton, Nazi-looted art, Red Army, Mrs P.M. Rainsford, Broadway Art Gallery, Restitution, World War II, Baron Ferenc Hatvany, Tate Gallery, Washington Principles, United Kingdom Spoliation Advisory Panel

Gurlitt and the State of Restitution: Triumphalist Moment Looking More Like Premature "Mission Accomplished"

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 19, 2015 at 9:45 AM

Ongoing events have weakened irrevocably the triumphalist message that Germany had hoped to send with its November agreement concerning the Gurlitt bequest to the Kunstmuseum Bern, and the January opening of the Deutsches Zentrum für Kulturgutverluste (the German Center for Lost Cultural Property). Instead, the self-congratulatory air that surrounded those events is starting to look like a premature "Mission Accomplished" moment.

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Topics: Cornelius Gurlitt, Holocaust Art Restitution Project, Uta Werner, Adolph von Menzel, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Seated Woman, Sachsenhausen, Matisse, Saturday Night Live, George Eduard Behrens, Advisory Commission, Hamburg, L. Behrens & Söhne, Gurlitt, German Cultural Minister, Der Spiegel, Hjalmar Schacht, German Center for Lost Cultural Property, Minister of Economics, Marc Masurovsky, Washington Principles, Kristallnacht, Monika Grütters, Great Depression, Deutsches Zentrum für Kulturgutverluste, Pariser Wochentag, Paris Weekday, Welfenschatz, Limbach Commission, Heidelberg

The Kunstmuseum Bern’s Agreement to Accept Gurlitt Inheritance—Analysis and Lingering Issues

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 24, 2014 at 12:07 PM

With the benefit of (a little) time after the initial announcement that the Kunstmuseum Bern had agreed to accept the inheritance of Cornelius Gurlitt, more information has become available about the agreement with Germany and Bavaria that paved the way for the museum’s decision.

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Topics: Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Gurlitt Task Force, YouTube, Gurlitt Collection, Christoph Schäublin, Salzburg, Gurlitt, Restitution, Bavaria, World War II, Erklärung der Bundesregierung der Länder und der k, Kunstmuseum Bern, Washington Principles, Museums, Monika Grütters, Washingtoner Einkommen

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

Bavarian State Paintings Collection in the News Again, May Face Claims from Eva Braun Heirs

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 2, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Quite by coincidence, two stories we have covered in the last few days have centered around the claims by the heirs of Paul von Mendelssohn Bartholdy, a Jewish banker and art collector who was the target of Nazi persecution before he died in 1935: Julius Schoeps, Edelgard von Lavergne-Peguilhen, and Florence Kesselstatt. Another common thread has been the Bavarian State Paintings Collection (the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlung), which is in the news again for possible claims, but this time from heirs of quite a different sort.

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Topics: Paul von Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Fritz Bamberger, Focus, Guelph Treasure, Florence Kesselstatt, Karl Blechen, Karl Ernst Baumann, Julius Schoeps, Dr Alexander Lewin, Germany, Anselm Feuerbach, Hans Sachs, German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultu, Gurlitt case, Edelgard von Lavergne-Peguilhen, Julius and Clara Freund, Eva Braun, Nürnberger Institut, Johann J. August von der Embde, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, 'Stürmer-Bibliothek', Wilhelm Leibl, Jim Tobias, Portrait der Familie von Dithfurth, Restitution, Bavarian State Paintings Collection, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlung, Der Spiegel, World War II, Peasant Girl without a Hat and with a White Headcl, Pinakothek der Moderne, Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Austria, Andrea Bambi Mountain Landscape on the Spanish Coa, Jutta Limbach, Washington Principles, Der Stürmer, Welfenschatz, Limbach Commission

Gurlitt Task Force Makes First Determination that Matisse "Seated Woman" Was Stolen From Rosenbergs; Questions Remain About What Happens Next

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 12, 2014 at 1:11 AM

The Gurlitt Task Force has issued its first public conclusion about the status of work amongst the collection found in Cornelius Gurlitt's apartment. Chair Ingebeborg Berggreen-Merkel issued a statement today that (my translation):

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Topics: Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Gurlitt Task Force, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Entartete Kunst, Munich art trove, Anne Sinclair, NS Raubkunst, Restitution, World War II, Kunstmuseum Bern, Washington Principles, Sitzende Frau, Kunstfund München, Henri Matisse, Paul Rosenberg

Gurlitt Bequest to Kunstmuseum Bern: German Language Analysis Roundup

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 9, 2014 at 1:53 AM

Discussion continues to swirl about how the passing of Cornelius Gurlitt this week will affect the review and possible return of the paintings found in his Munich apartment, and those in Austria. Not surprisingly, the majority of reflections on the news that Gurlitt appointed the Kunstmuseum in Bern, Swizterland as his sole heir are in German, Austrian, and Swiss publications. Here are is my roundup of the latest reports:

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Topics: Neue Zürchner Zeitung, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Ingeborg Bergreen-Merkel, Stephan Holzinger, Bad Aussee, Cornelius Gurlitt, Monopol, Gurlitt Task Force, Germany, will, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Matthias Frehner, Entartete Kunst, Salzburg, Restitution, ORF, World War II, Switzerland, Süddeutsche Zeitung, heir, Austria, Kunstmuseum Bern, Washington Principles, Nazi Raubkunst, validity

"Gurlitt Facts" Website Posted as Part of Public Relations Offensive, Arguments Strain Credulity

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 18, 2014 at 5:40 AM

Cornelius Gurlitt’s legal team has posted a new website called "Gurlitt Info" in similar (but not identical) German and English versions that is so contradicted by the repeated disclosures by the German government, that it is hard to imagine its intended purpose. As a public relations move, it is a disaster. The tactic may explain why the Augsburg prosecutor rejected the possibility of a deal with Gurlitt: he knows what he is dealing with. At the same time, the draft amendment to the statute of limitations, the Cultural Property Restitution Law (or "Lex Gurlitt," as it has somewhat misleadingly become known) is now formally before the Bundesrat for consideration as to whether to introduce the draft to the full Bundestag and possible enactment as the law of Germany. Bavarian Cultural Minister Winfried Bausbeck discusses the law here in a recent interview.

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Topics: Cultural Property Restitution Law, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Bayern, Nazi stolen art, Hannes Hartung, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Gurlitt Info, Führermuseum, Germany, Gurlitt Collection, Lex Gurlitt, Red Army, Entartete Kunst, Winfried Bausbeck, Gurlitt Facts, Beutekunst, Salzburg, Bundestag, Bundesrat, Gurlitt, Restitution, Statute of Limitations, Augusburg, Bavaria, Linz, Der Spiegel, World War II, Task Force, degenerate art, Cultural Minister, Austria, Justizminister, www.lostart.de, Soviet Union, Washington Principles, Raubkunst, Verjährung, Kulturgut-Rückwehr-Gesetz, Münchner Kunstfund

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