The Bern Art Museum in Switzerland is to receive 1, 280 artworks which were looted by the Nazis during World War II.
The painting were first discovered two years in the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt who had kept them hidden for years. The museum first learned in May that it was named his sole heir. That is when Gurlitt died at the age of 81.
The controversies around property stolen from Jews by the Germans during the Holocaust continue. Jews and people in the occupied countries had all sorts of antiques and art taken from them and many museums were looted.
A recent movie starring George Clooney called Monuments Men told the story of how the allies found much of the stolen goods hidden away in various locations. But much of it was never recovered and Jewish families continue to search for their ancestor’s property, ancestors who were murdered in the Holocaust.
This is why there was so much outrage around the discovery of Gurlitt’s collection. He had decades to acknowledge that the artworks were in his possession.
Both the museum and the German government are set to announce today at a press conference whether or not the paintings will be accepted. Der Spiegel reported that a deal was reached which would leave 500 of the artworks behind in Germany so that the government could determine whether or not they were looted.
The collection includes works by Chagall and Picasso,
The World Jewish Congress is threatening legal action against the museum if it accepts the collection. Ronald Lauder, the head of the World Jewish Congress, told the German weekly Der Spiegel “would open a Pandora’s Box and cause an avalanche of lawsuits.”
The descendants of Paris art collector Paul Rosenberg have claimed that a Matisse painting called “Seated Woman” found in the collection belonged to him. Their lawyer, Christopher A. Marinello, told AFP, “If I were a betting man, I would say that the Kunstmuseum Bern will be accepting the collection. That is what I’m counting on.”