New Research Says Gurlitt Collection Could Include 91 Nazi-Looted Works

The collection includes work by Edvard Munch and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

(From L to R) Christoph Schaeublin, President of the Foundation Council of the Kunstmuseum Bern art museum, Monika Gruetters, German State Culture Minister, and Winfried Bausback, Bavarian State Justice Minister, present an agreement they signed moments before over the future of the Gurlitt Collection on November 24, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Photo courtesy of Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

New research suggests that the controversial art collection inherited by the late Cornelius Gurlitt may include more Nazi-looted works than previously thought.

After two years of research, a 14-member government-appointed task force presented their report in January. The committee agreed on the provenance of only 11 artworks in the 1,500 piece collection, after spending two years and €1.8 million ($2 million) in public funds. Only five works were identified as Nazi-looted art. In January one of the task force’s most outspoken critics, the collector and president of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder, labelled the findings “meagre and not satisfactory.”

This handout photo provided by the Lost Art Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg, the German government agency charged with documenting and ascertaining the origins of artworks appropriated by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945, shows the painting "Couple" by Hans Christoph on November 18, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. The work is among 25 shown on the Lost Art website and among the approximately 1,400 works German authorities confiscated from the Munich residence of Cornelius Gurlitt, son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, an art dealer who worked for the Nazis. Photo Courtesy Lost Art Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg.

This handout photo provided by the Lost Art Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg, the German government agency charged with documenting and ascertaining the origins of artworks appropriated by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945, shows the painting Couple by Hans Christoph. Photo Courtesy Lost Art Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg.

But according to Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung, preliminary investigations by the German Center of Lost Cultural Property reveal evidence that as many as 91 of the 502 works may have been looted. The organization took over the provenance research after the committee submitted its report earlier this year.

Project coordinator Andrea Baresel-Brand stressed to the Swiss daily that this does not mean with 100 percent certainty that the suspicious works were in fact looted by Nazis. Further provenance research is required before suspicions can be confirmed, she said.

The Museum of Fine Arts (Kunstmuseum) of Bern is pictured on May 8, 2014. The museum said it was shocked to learn that Cornelius Gurlitt the son of a Nazi-era art dealer had left it a disputed hoard of priceless paintings -- some thought to have been plundered from Jews. One day after the death of Cornelius Gurlitt aged 81, his lawyer told the Museum of Fine Arts in the western Swiss city of Bern that it was the sole heir of the German's spectacular collection. Photo courtesy of FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images.

The Museum of Fine Arts (Kunstmuseum) of Bern. Photo courtesy of FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images.

Gurlitt bequeathed his collection to the Museum of Fine Arts Bern shortly before his death in May 2014. The 91 contested works reportedly include paintings and prints by artists such as Max Liebermann, Edvard Munch, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. If the German Center of Lost Cultural Property determines that they have been looted, the Swiss museum may be required to submit to restitution claims.


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