Nazi art collection list published by Swiss museum
Bern gallery inherited the art, including pieces stolen from Jews, from Cornelius Gurlitt
Bern art museum which was named sole heir of Cornelius Gurlitt, the recluse who kept a collection of 1,280 artworks, some stolen from Jewish people by Nazis, hidden for decades. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters
German expressionist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s ‘Alpsonntag-Szene am Brunnen’ (Sunday in the Alps-Scene at the Well) in the Bern Art Museum. Photograph: Ruben Sprich/Reuters
Swiss painter Ferdinand Holder’s ‘Der Holzfaeller’ (the lumberman) in the Bern Art Museum. Ruben Sprich/Reuters
A Swiss museum has published a list of the art left to it by Cornelius Gurlitt, a German recluse whose secret collection included masterpieces taken from their Jewish owners by the Nazis.
The Bern Art Museum was named as sole heir to the collection and on Monday reluctantly accepted the bequest, making it clear it would adopt a policy of total transparency to head off any criticism over its decision to take in the artwork.
“We have promised transparency and are now acting accordingly,” Matthias Frehner, director of the Kunstmuseum Bern, said.
Mr Gurlitt’s collection of over 1,200 artworks had been hidden for decades until German tax inspectors stumbled upon it during a raid on his Munich apartment in 2012. A government task force identified three pieces that were indisputably looted by the Nazis which would be returned to the heirs.
Bern art museum has said it will not accept any piece which experts believed might have been stolen. By publishing the full list it hopes it might discover the rightful owners.
Switzerland has worked hard in recent years to shake-off its reputation as a haven for ill-gotten gains, and the museum is anxious to avoid the legal risks associated with accepting disputed art works.
The 196-page list published on the museum website catalogues all the works that were found in Mr Gurlitt’s flat in Munich and at his house in Salzburg. Among the notable pieces are Henri Matisse’s Seated Woman from circa 1924, oriental drawings from Eugene Delacroix and a landscape from Gustave Courbet.
The treasure trove of Modernist and Renaissance masters was assembled by Gurlitt’s father Hildebrand, a dealer charged with selling what Adolf Hitler dismissed as “degenerate art”.
The museum said the list remained a “work in progress” and that it would continue to add further details in the course of its investigations. Reuters