Gurlitt Bequeathed Collection to Museum of Fine Arts Bern

Nazi loot hoarder Cornelius Gurlitt.
Photo: Melmedia.

Cornelius Gurlitt allegedly left his notorious collection in its entirety to an unnamed art institution outside of Germany (see update, below), according to a report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The 81-year-old, who came under the spotlight last year following reports of his trove of nearly 1300 works of alleged Nazi loot, died on Tuesday morning at his home in Munich.

According to the report, Gurlitt met with a notary while in the hospital several months ago to formalize his gift. The collection—or what will remain of it once the German government completes its provenance research and evaluates restitution requests in the next year—must remain intact, according to the report.

Gurlitt’s former spokesperson Stephan Holzinger confirmed that his client did meet with a notary ahead of the heart operation that ultimately resulted in his death, according to the dpa. However, he could not confirm to whom Gurlitt had left the trove of art which he himself inherited from his father, Hildebrand Gurlitt.

For his part, it seems, Holzinger would like the frenzy surrounding his former client to end. “Though I understand that speculation will now flourish wildly,” he told the dpa, “On the day of his death, I want to emphasize that Cornelius Gurlitt has made a significant contribution to [the process of] reconciliation, more than any that the German government has undertaken to date.”

Perhaps surprisingly, reactions across social media and the German press on Tuesday as the world learned of Gurlitt’s death, were of great sympathy. Many quoted a tragic line from his interview last fall with Der Spiegel: “In my life, I’ve loved nothing except for my pictures.”

Close to 1300 pieces of alleged Nazi loot by such artists as Picasso, Matisse, and Dix were found in and seized from Gurlitt’s apartment in the Schwabing district of Munich in 2012. A stash of 60 artworks including additional pieces by Monet, Manet, Renoir, and others were later recovered from his Salzburg residence. A third stash of 180 works found at his home in Bad Aussee.

UPDATE: According to a breaking news report in the Wall Street Journal online Asia Edition, Gurlitt left the artworks to the Museum of Fine Arts Bern.

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