Works Stashed by Nazi-Era Art Dealer to Go on View in Switzerland and Germany

New York Times 16 February 2017
By Alison Smale

ERLIN — Hundreds of artworks that were hidden for decades by Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Nazi-era art dealer, will at last go on view beginning in November, in exhibitions in Bern, Switzerland, and in Bonn, Germany, two museums have announced.

The long-awaited exhibitions were scheduled after a Munich court ruled in December that Mr. Gurlitt, who died in 2014, had been of sound mind when he bequeathed his collection of roughly 1,500 works to the Kunstmuseum Bern.

The Bern museum will host “Dossier Gurlitt: ‘Degenerate Art,’ Confiscated and Sold,” from Nov. 2 to March 4, 2018.

The Bonn show, “Dossier Gurlitt: Nazi Art Theft and Its Consequences,” will run from Nov. 3 to March 11, 2018, at the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, commonly known as the Bundeskunsthalle. It will focus on works seized by the Nazis and on Jewish art collectors and dealers who were persecuted.

The two museums are collaborating on the project.

The exhibition in Bern will be curated by Nina Zimmer, the fine arts museum’s director, and Matthias Frehner, its director of collections and the author of “Modern Masters: ‘Degenerate Art’ at the Kunstmuseum Bern,” with help from Georg Kreis, a historian at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

The exhibition in Bonn will be organized by Rein Wolfs, the Bundeskunsthalle director, and Agnieszka Lulinska, a curator.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Wolfs said the Bonn exhibition would be the larger of the two, probably including about 150 works — most, but not all, from Gurlitt’s collection, to illustrate the theme of looted art. The Bern exhibition will probably feature about 100 works from the Gurlitt collection, Mr. Wolfs said.

No artworks whose provenance is in doubt will be sent to Bern, as things now stand, he said. They will remain in Germany, where their provenance is being investigated by a German-led international task force.

The collection was amassed by Mr. Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand, and was concealed until the autumn of 2013, when the weekly magazine Focus reported that the authorities had stumbled on it during a tax investigation.

The younger Mr. Gurlitt had kept more than 1,200 artworks in his Munich apartment and in a house in Salzburg, Austria. He died at 81, just after bequeathing the collection to the Bern museum, which has pledged to return any works proved to be looted from Jewish collectors.

After the discovery, Germany established the task force on looted art, but two years and nearly $2 million later, it had found the rightful owners of just five of the works. It has pledged to pay to continue the search.
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