Will Germany Keep Gurlitt’s Trove from the Swiss?

Cornelius Gurlitt. Photo: Markus Hannich.

The Bavarian art ministry stated that it intends to sift through Cornelius Gurlitt’s collection of artworks before any are sent to the Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland, according to the dpa. Gurlitt, who died on Tuesday morning at his apartment in Munich, bequeathed the entirety of his collection to the museum. However, before allowing the collection to leave the country, the ministry says that by law it must insure that the collection does not contain objects that would be deemed part of German cultural heritage.

Any of the works in Gurlitt’s collection that do indeed fall into the category, will be placed on an official registry. Objects and artworks on that registry require written government approval in order to leave Germany. Thus, these works would most likely be prevented from joining the balance of the collection at the Kunstmuseum Bern. The ministry cautioned against expecting a swift decision on the matter, however. They explained that due to the ongoing provenance research of 458 works from Gurtlitt’s collection, there was no rush. On April 7, they were given one year to complete that research.

Meanwhile, according to a report in Bild, ambiguity surrounding the cause of Gurlitt’s death has led a district court in Munich to request an autopsy be performed on his body. When announcing Gurlitt’s death on Tuesday afternoon, his spokesperson indicated that a doctor had been at Gurlitt’s bedside. However, Thomas Steinkraus-Koch, the state attorney speaking with the newspaper, said that according to the information of which he was currently in possession, no doctor was present when Gurlitt died.

The report further details that the presumptive cause of death was a lack of oxygen due to his failing heart. However, the state attorney said no definitive cause of death had been determined. Should the autopsy fail to produce definitive results, they will move forward with a toxicology report. Despite there being no evidence of negligence at this point in time, Steinkraus-Koch would like to insure without doubt that no negligent behavior took place.

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