A Swiss museum has inherited one of the most controversial art collections in recent European history. Kunstmuseum Bern confirmed on Wednesday it has been named the “unrestricted and unfettered sole heir” in the will of the reclusive collector Cornelius Gurlitt, who died on Tuesday.
Several works in the collection, which was originally assembled by Gurlitt’s father Hildebrand, are suspected of having been looted from Jewish families during the Nazi era. A taskforce of art experts is examining the provenance of the works in a secret location in Germany until the end of the year.
Kunstmuseum Bern’s director, Matthias Frehner, said that the news had come “like a bolt from the blue”, since Gurlitt had at no time had any connection to the museum. Frehner said: “The Board of Trustees and Directors of Kunstmuseum Bern are surprised and delighted, but at the same time do not wish to conceal the fact that this magnificent bequest brings with it a considerable burden of responsibility and a wealth of questions of the most difficult and sensitive kind, and questions in particular of a legal and ethical nature.”
Chris Marinello, a London-based art recovery expert representing the descendants of the Jewish art dealer Paul Rosenberg, welcomed the news: “We see it as a positive development that Mr Gurlitt left his collection to a museum, which is bound by international codes of ethics regarding looted artworks as well as the Washington Principles on nazi-confiscated art..
Given that one painting in Gurlitt’s possession, Henri Matisse’s Sitting Woman, had already been proven to be looted from Rosenberg’s collection, Marinello didn’t expect it to end up in Bern, he told the Guardian.
WHO WOULD? WHAT A FILTHY DESPICABLE LAST MOVE ON GURLIT’S PART. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME THE SWISS RETURNED ANYTHING? LET THE GAMES BEGIN!