THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST SYNOPSIS PUT TOGETHER BY A REPORTER YET. KUDOS TO Nicholas O’Donnell on
Director Matthias Frehner of the Kunstmuseum Bern was interviewed by the Süddeutsche Zeitung in Friday’s edition. He repeated that the museum was “completely surprised,” but has not many any decisions with regard to the bequest. Ultimately it will be for the foundation’s board to decide. He acknowledged the likelihood of claims against the collections, and said that objects should be returned in accordance with the Washington Principles when the facts are clear. That sounds positive, but recall how few cases present clear facts.
In Switzerland itself, the Neue Zürchner Zeitung addresses one of the quirks we raised yesterday: the fact that the museum was not merely bequeathed the paintings, but was appointed as heir, with various duties and responsibilities that come with that. It notes the mixed nature of what would otherwise be good news for the museum, and the many questions still ahead. The Bavarian prosecutors have declared there to be no rush to transfer any paintings to the Kunstmuseum, citing the April agreement’s provision of one year to review the objects’ provenance. They also raised the possibility that some of the works could be declared German cultural heritage, and export to Switzerland forbidden without a related permit. Somewhat more graciously, the chair of the Gurlitt Task Force, Ingeborg Bergreen-Merkel, said Thursday in Berlin that “Of course, we will answer any questions by the Kunstmuseum Bern named by Mr. Gurlitt.”
In Austria, there was confirmation that the paintings found in Salzburg and Bad Aussee, which by some accounts may be the most valuable among the collection, are not going anywhere for the moment. Gurlitt spokesman Stephan Holzinger confirmed to ORF on Thursday that the works were still in Austria (though not where), and would await a decision on the validity of Gurlitt’s will appointing the Kunstmuseum Bern as his heir.
It does not seem like anything is going to happen quickly, but this story has had its share of surprises before. More surely await.