Art Law Report

Changes to Limbach Commission Announced, Real Change Now Seems Out of Reach

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 15, 2016 at 10:43 AM

Three New Members Are Added but German Museums Can Still Decline to Participate

After nearly a year of hinting at changes the Advisory Commission in Germany that makes recommendations to state museums on claims for allegedly Nazi-looted works in their collections (“Beratende Kommission im Zusammenhang mit der Rückgabe NS-verfolgungsbedingt entzogener Kulturgüter, insbesondere aus jüdischem Besitz,” or “Advisory Commission on the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, especially Jewish property”), the federal government announced last week the addition of three new members.  Yet despite public outcry over the outdated and opaque procedures of the commission (better known as the Limbach Commission, in reference to the late Jutta Limbach, presiding member and former judge of the Constitutional Court), none of the fundamental flaws in the panel have been confronted or addressed.  Instead, the occasion has served as little more than another photo opportunity for federal Minister of Culture Monika Grütters, whose visage dutifully accompanies all the recent announcements.

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Topics: Limbach Commission, Beratende Kommission, NS Raubkunst, Gurlitt, Looted Art, Legislation, Raphael Gross, Gary Smith, Marion Eckart-Hofer, Simon Dubnow Institute, American Academy in Berlin, Stefan Koldehoff, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Monika Grütters, Rudiger Mahlo, Bavarian State Paintings Collection, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Jewish Claims Conference, World War II, Restitution

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

Guelph Treasure Claims—Coverage and Analysis

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 8, 2015 at 5:45 PM

It has been almost two weeks since I filed my clients’ claims for restitution of the Guelph Treasure (Welfenschatz).

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Topics: Maria Altmann, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, National Socialists, Third Reich, artdaily.org, Reuters, United States Supreme Court, Guelph Treasure, Gestapo, Haaretz, Deutschlandradio. Deutsche Presse Agentur, Robin Young, the Guardian, The Art Newspaper, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, The Wall Street Journal, Deutsche Welle, Santa Fe, KRQE News 13, the Observer, Markus Stoetzel, Die Erle, Mel Urbach, Nazis, Advisory Commission, 3SAT, ZDF, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Washington DC, Hermann Goering, Private Wealth, Restitution, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Here & Now, Gerald Stiebel, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, flight tax, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Adolf Hitler, United States District Court, The New York Times, Federal Republic of Germany, BBC News Europe, Alan Phillip, Welfenschatz, NPR, PrivateArtInvestor, ArtNet news

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

Cornelius Gurlitt Passes Away, Questions Remain About Recent Deal and Fate of Collection

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 7, 2014 at 2:22 AM

Cornelius Gurlitt died yesterday, six months after his art collection was revealed to the world in a Focus article, and less than a month after striking a deal with Bavarian prosecutors over the 1,280 paintings and works of art seized from his apartment as part of a tax investigation. Although that brings the investigation that initially led to the seizure to an end, many questions remain about what will happen to the deal that he made, and to the works of art in Austria not covered by that deal

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Topics: Focus, Bayern, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Germany, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Seated Woman, heirs, Entartete Kunst, stolen art, Anne Sinclair, Ersessene Kunst, Restitution, Bavaria, World War II, Süddeutsche Zeitung, degenerate art, Erben, Austria, NS-beschlagnahmte Kunst, Raubkunst, Henri Matisse, Paul Rosenberg

The Gurlitt Deal—Prosecutor Gives Collection Back, Agreement Leaves Questions About Process and Transparency

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on April 9, 2014 at 11:52 AM

The Augsburg prosecutor for the State of Bavaria announced today that in connection with Monday’s agreement with Cornelius Gurlitt, the 1,280 works of art seized from Gurlitt’s apartment in 2012 have been “returned” to Gurlitt. Though it does not appear that the objects have physically changed locations, the state officially lifted the seizure, and now has access to the collection for further provenance research pursuant to the agreement, rather than the compulsory process by which it retrieved them.

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Topics: German Ministry of Culture, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Cornelius Gurlitt, Bundesministerium für Kultur und Medien, Breslau, Augsburg, Willi Korte, London, Max Liebermann, Claude Monet, Christoph Edel, Gurlitt Collection, Ingrid Begreen-Merkel, Alt Ausee, Hildebrandt Gurlitt, stolen art, State of Bavaria, Reiter am Strand, Salzburg, Restitution, David Toren, Müncher Kunstfund, World War II, Task Force, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Freistaat Bayern, NS-beschlagnahmte Kunst, www.lostart.de, Monika Grütters, Riders on the Beach, Raubkunst, Bayerisches Staatsministerium der Justiz, Bavarian Ministry of Justice, Henri Matisse, Paul Rosenberg

Gurlitt Can’t Get His Story Straight About Salzburg Trove

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 27, 2014 at 6:30 AM

As confusion swirls around Cornelius Gurlitt’s actual plans, one of the issues is that his team is not speaking consistently with one voice. In particular, there are odd developments about the artworks that Gurlitt himself had removed from his Salzburg home in February—oddities that are worth weighing when considering the recent public statements about his supposed willingness to return some of the art. The fact that Gurlitt’s team itself has undergone a shakeup is also worthy of note.

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Topics: Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hannes Hartung, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Stefan Edel, www.Gurlitt.Info, Mary Lane, Fall Gurlitt, Gurlitt Collection, Sitting Woman, stolen art, Meike Hoffmann, Salzburg, Restitution, Wall Street Journal, World War II, Süddeutsche Zeitung, New York Times, Raubkunst, Münchner Kunstfund, Limbach Commission, Henri Matisse, Paul Rosenberg

Gurlitt Art Return Click-Bait and Switch—Don’t Get Fooled by Headlines

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 27, 2014 at 6:17 AM

It was hardly surprising that news that Cornelius Gurlitt was willing to return artworks taken from his apartment in 2012 that had once been taken from Jews spread quickly. What is regrettable is how quickly the headlines seem to have gone viral that he is going—or even willing—to return all of the paintings. Nothing that he or his representatives have said supports that contention. From the New York Times, for example:

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Topics: Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hannes Hartung, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, www.Gurlitt.Info, Mary Lane, Fall Gurlitt, Gurlitt Collection, Sitting Woman, stolen art, Meike Hoffmann, Salzburg, Restitution, Wall Street Journal, World War II, Süddeutsche Zeitung, New York Times, Raubkunst, Münchner Kunstfund, Limbach Commission, Henri Matisse, Paul Rosenberg

Gurlitt "Wants" to Return “All Pictures Stolen or Looted from Jewish Possession”—But Stolen According to Whom?

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 26, 2014 at 12:45 PM

Christoph Edel, lawyer and guardian for Cornelius Gurlitt, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung today that his client wants to return “all pictures stolen or looted from Jewish possession.” Although this has set Twitter and the Internet ablaze with the news, the statement deserves careful scrutiny in light of Gurlitt’s strategy over the last two months. The likeliest meaning is that Gurlitt intends to return those works that he believes were stolen from Jews—a total he himself put at less than three percent of the 1,280 works found in his apartment, over 900 of which the Scwabinger Task Force has declared to be suspect. Note too that a slight mistranslation has already gotten into circulation. Whereas Edel told the SZ that Gurlitt "wants" to return those paintings, the German conjugation of want (will) was cited as a statement that he will (in English) return them. Not so fast, as they say.

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Topics: Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, NDR, www.Gurlitt.Info, Christoph Edel, Gurlitt Collection, WDR, Sitting Woman, Henie-Onstad Museum, Salzburg, Restitution, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Henri Matisse, Paul Rosenberg

New Details, More Questions Than Answers in Gurlitt Nazi-Tinged Painting Find in Munich

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 5, 2013 at 4:45 AM

The Bavarian prosecutor held a press conference today to discuss the revelation this weekend in Focus that nearly 1,400 paintings had been found in the Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt two years ago, after he aroused suspicion by bringing a large amount of cash back into Germany from Switzerland in 2010. This continues to shape up as the biggest restitution story in decades, perhaps ever. Among the key updates provided today by Sigfried Köble and Reinhard Nemetz, the customs official and prosecutor in charge, respectively:

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Topics: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, unbekannte Meisterwerke, Focus, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Alfred Flechtheim, the Lion Tamer, Cornelius Gurlitt, Reinhard Nemetz, Anne Weber, Gurlitt Collection, Max Beckmann, Bloomberg, Otto Dix, Commission for Looted Art in Europe, Art Market Monitor, Auktionshaus Lempertz, Entartete Kunst, Meike Hoffmann, Marc Chagall, Entdeckung verschollener Kunst, beschlagnahmte Bilder, Kunsthistorikerin, Sigfried Köble, Restitution, Der Spiegel, World War II, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Erben, Raubkunst-Bildern, Löwenbändiger, München, Nazi Raubkunst

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