Authorities Name the Rest of Task Force on Seized German Art

New York Times 28 January 2014
By Melissa Eddy

BERLIN — Thirteen experts in art history, provenance research and restitution issues have been appointed to assist German authorities in establishing the history of hundreds of artworks discovered in the Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a well-known Nazi-era art dealer.

Ingeborg Berggreen-Merkel, a former deputy culture minister, announced the staffing of the government-appointed task force on Tuesday. In addition to German members, six experts from other countries involved in the provenance research of Nazi-looted art have been tapped.

Initially the members will focus on tracing ownership histories of 590 drawings, prints or paintings believed to have been stolen by the Nazis from their Jewish owners. Once that work is considered completed, the experts will investigate the 380 works believed to have been taken by the Nazis from public museums and other institutions as part of their campaign against “Entartete Kunst,” or degenerate art from 1937 to 1938.

“I am grateful for the broad-based, international support for our work,” Ms. Berggreen-Merkel said in a statement. “Having nationally and internationally recognized experts on the task force will guarantee that our work is objective and of high quality.”

Work has already begun on photographing and publishing the fronts and backs of those works that may have been looted. Some 458 works have been posted on the Lost Art Internet Database, run by Germany’s central office for the documentation of lost cultural property. Ms. Berggreen-Merkel has urged anyone who suspects one of their family’s works may be in the collection to come up with as much proof of past ownership as possible and contact the task force, reachable through the Web site.

Experts from outside Germany serving on the task force include Jane Milosch from the Smithsonian, Thierry Bajou from the Musées Nationaux Récupération in France, Sophie Lillie in Vienna and Agnes Peresztegi from Budapest. Yad Vashem’s Yehudit Shendar, and Shlomit Steinberg from the European Art Israel Museum in Jerusalem are from Israel.

Uwe Hartmann, the head of Germany’s office for provenance research, Meike Hoffmann, the art historian who was initially tapped by Augsburg prosecutors to research the collection and Michael Franz, the head of the country’s office coordinating restitution, have been tapped from leading German institutions that handle restitution issues.

They are joined by Magnus Brechtken, the deputy director for the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, Roland Kempfle, a Munich prosecutor, Heike Impelmann from the office for unresolved property issues and Stephanie Tasch, who represents Germany’s 16 states.
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