Private Donor Funds Kunstmuseum Bern’s Gurlitt Research Unit

The seven-figure gift will help the museum’s efforts to return Nazi loot.

Christoph Schäublin and Matthias Frehner Photo: Adrian Moser via: Tages Anzeiger
Christoph Schäublin and Matthias Frehner Photo: Adrian Moser via: Tages Anzeiger

A Bern patron has pledged a “seven-figure sum” to help the Kunstmuseum Bern set up a research unit dedicated to the study and documentation of Cornelius Gurlitt’s controversial bequest. A museum representative confirmed the donation to artnet News this morning.

In an interview with the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger, the museum’s president Christoph Schäublin describes the benefactor, a local lady who has chosen to remain anonymous, as a “friend” of the institution. She has already supported it on other occasions.

The Kunstmuseum announced on Monday that it will accept the extraordinary collection amassed by the late Gurlitt, despite the fact that several pieces are thought to be Nazi loot.

As artnet News reported (see “Kunstmuseum Bern Accepts 1,300 Artwork Nazi-Era Gurlitt Collection Amidst Legal Battles”), the Swiss institution said it would make every effort to return the looted pieces to their rightful heirs.

A full list of the works, varying in number from 1,300 to 1,600 depending on the source, will be released by the museum later today.

“The truth is that the collection is overwhelming,” Kunstmuseum director Matthias Frehner told Tages Anzeiger. “Of course, not all these works are highly significant, but some are.”

While Frehner declined to give a total value estimate, he revealed some key pieces in the bequest, including Paul Cézanne Montagne Sainte-Victoire (1847), Claude Monet’s Waterloo Bridge in the Fog (1903), a “marine” by Edouard Manet, an important pointillist piece by Paul Signac, and a rare self-portrait by Gustave Courbet, The Apostle, known in the literature as a lithograph.

The research unit will consist of two full-time posts for provenance researchers and archivists, and will be up and running as soon as possible, although no date has been announced yet. The newly-appointed staff will continue research already started in-house.

Frehner also confided that, after the initial presentation, the Gurlitt bequest won’t be displayed in a separate Gurlitt room, but integrated into the museum’s exhibitions and displays.

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