BERLIN (AP) — Germany's culture minister hopes to put some works from the trove of priceless art accumulated by the late collector Cornelius Gurlitt on exhibition next year.
Der Spiegel magazine reported Friday that the plan is for an exhibition opening at the end of 2016 at the Bundeskunsthalle museum in Bonn. Culture Minister Monika Gruetters' office confirmed the report but said it couldn't give further details.
Der Spiegel said the exhibition could contain works that may have been taken by the Nazis from Jewish owners. It quoted Gruetters as saying that, while organizers must show "respect for the victims," she hopes for new clues on the works' origins.
Her office noted that a 2014 agreement under which Switzerland's Kunstmuseum Bern agreed to accept Gurlitt's bequest of his collection allows for works that were looted, or whose background hasn't been cleared up, to be "exhibited with the aim of full transparency."
Gurlitt died in May 2014, a few months after it emerged that authorities had seized some 1,400 items at his Munich apartment while investigating a tax case in 2012. Officials have been checking whether several hundred of the works were seized from their owners by the Nazis.
A task force set up to examine the provenance of works in the collection so far has determined that four pieces were looted by the Nazis, and the first two were handed over to their rightful owners' heirs in May.
That task force is to wrap up its work at the end of this year. Gruetters wants the government-backed German Lost Art Foundation to take charge of any further research efforts that may be required.
Joint exhibitions in Germany and Switzerland displaying hundreds of works found in homes of Cornelius Gurlitt will open next week
Hundreds of works of art that were hoarded by the son of a Nazi art dealer will go on public display for the first time in decades in joint exhibitions in Germany and Switzerland opening next week.
Kunstmuseum Bern and the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn will present the works found in the homes of Cornelius Gurlitt in two parallel shows called Gurlitt Status Report that are expected to draw art lovers from around the world.
Around 1,500 works, including pieces by Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Otto Dix and Gustave Courbet, worth hundreds of millions of euros were discovered in Gurlitt’s Munich and Salzburg residences by tax inspectors and revealed in 2013, in what was described as the biggest artistic find of the postwar era.
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Hitler was going to the opera to hear Wagner (conducted by the modernist Gustav Mahler
Quote:Hitler was going to the opera to hear Wagner (conducted by the modernist Gustav Mahler
Mahler died in 1911.
While the Bern exhibition focuses on "degenerate art" and includes objects once considered lost, the Bonn show includes mainly Nazi-looted artworks or those of questionable provenance.
Cezanne's "La Montagne Sainte-Victoire" was found in the trove of notorious "art hermit" Cornelius Gurlitt in 2014. How the work came to be in the hands of the Nazis remains a mystery.
The Bern Museum of Fine Art in Switzerland will retain ownership of a Paul Cezanne painting found in a Nazi-era trove in 2014, the artist's heirs confirmed on Tuesday. They also said that the museum had agreed to regularly exhibit the work in Cezanne's hometown of Aix-en-Provence, France.
"This solution in the spirit of the Swiss-French friendship and partnership allows two great museums, Bern Museum of Fine Art and the Musee Granet in Aix-en-Provence, to show a masterpiece by our grandfather Paul Cezanne for the benefit and enjoyment of a great audience," said Philippe Cezanne (pictured above), great-grandson of the master painter.
The painting was found in the now-infamous Gurlitt collection, originally amassed by German art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt under direction from the Nazis to sell or get rid of "degenerate" art seized from museums.
But Gurlitt kept many of the paintings, and his son Cornelius Gurlitt had kept the collection stored in his Munich apartment until he died at the age of 81 in 2014. In his will, he left the works to the Bern museum.
How the painting, the 1897 landscape "La Montagne Sainte-Victoire," ended up in Gurlitt's possession remains a mystery. It was the property of the Cezanne family until 1940, but the family has said that it was not stolen from them by the Nazis.
"When and under which circumstances Hildebrand Gurlitt acquired the work remains unclear," the Bern museum said,
The painting is currently part of the Bern museum's exhibition "Gurlitt: Status Report; Part 2 Nazi Art Theft and Its Consequences."
An authentic watercolour sketch by Henry Moore, one of the most famous British artists of the 20th century, has been identified among the notorious Gurlitt hoard of more than 1,500 works, many of them Nazi loot inherited by German art dealer Cornelius Gurlitt from his father.
The coloured sketch of reclining figures, dating from the 1920s, has been identified through the BBC programme Fake or Fortune? and is believed to be the only UK work in the vast hoard of paintings and drawings discovered in Germany in 2012.
Although many of the works of art including pieces by Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso and Otto Dix have deeply tainted origins, stolen by the Nazis or the result of forced sales from Jewish collectors, the programme also established that the drawing, dating from the 1920s, was actually given by Moore to a German museum, and was bought before the war by Gurlitt’s father.
The programme was asked to investigate the origins and authenticity of the drawing by the Kunstmuseum in Bern, the oldest fine art museum in Switzerland, which emerged as Gurlitt’s sole heir when he died of heart failure in 2014. A German court overruled a challenge to the will by a relative, and works from the collection are now being exhibited in Bern and at a museum in Bonn, with a full explanation of the history of the collection.
Philip Mould, an art expert and co-presenter of the programme, said the drawing was a fascinating early work by Moore. “Not only do we now know it is totally genuine, but it has been cleansed of the evil prospect that it was looted Nazi art, which will allow Bern to once again display it to the public.”
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News that the Bavarian Public Prosecutor’s office had seized the art collection of Cornelius Gurlitt (1932–2014), caused a national and international sensation when it was made public in November 2013. The 1500 works the reclusive son of the art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt (1895–1956) had inherited from his father raised suspicions: had they been looted by the Nazis before and during the Second World War?
To investigate these suspicions and to study the cache, the German government provided funding to establish an international team of experts, the Schwabing Art Trove Taskforce. Cornelius Gurlitt agreed to restitute any work identified as expropriated unlawfully. Thus far, four such works have been returned to the heirs of their rightful owners.
In the exhibition at the Gropius Bau, the Bundeskunsthalle Bonn and the Kunstmuseum Bern present some 200 works from the Gurlitt estate and a wide range of original documents and historical photographs. The exhibition traces the twists and turns of Hildebrand Gurlitt’s career: from passionate champion of Modernism to participant in and beneficiary of the Aktion Entartete Kunst and, finally, - despite a Jewish grandmother – to head buyer for Hitler’s planned Führer Museum in Linz.
That notwithstanding, after the end of the war, he was able to resume his pre-war career as museum director without too much trouble. Complementing Gurlitt’s ambiguous biography, the exhibition sheds light on the lives of some of his contemporaries, focusing on the fate of Jewish artists, collectors and art dealers who fell victim to the Nazi regime.
Spanning a wide range of eras and styles – from Dürer to Monet and from Cranach to Kirchner and Rodin – the exhibition presents works that have been hidden from public view for decades and provides an insight into the current state of the investigation of the Gurlitt trove. By tracing the provenance of each of the works on show, the exhibition also sheds light on the complex history of the individual objects. Many of them were seized as ‘degenerate’ from German museums in 1937, others may have been unlawfully expropriated from their owners. For a great number of works, the provenance is likely to remain unclear because conclusive documents are lost or because the dealers involved made sure to cover their tracks.
Gurlitt art trove works that were once 'Nazi treasure' are being exhibited for the first time in Israel, including much so-called "degenerate" art. Visitors have the chance to explore long-hidden Jewish family histories.
Miri Rosin places her right hand over her heart. The old lady is visibly moved. She takes a deep breath.
"Did you see the photo of the Rue de Rivoli?” she asks. "All these wonderful pieces of art and then this photo. That makes me so …” She struggles to find the words. "... angry, sad. I love Paris. Look, you can just about make out the Louvre here. I was in the Louvre so often," exclaims the art lover. "And here is the Rue de Rivoli decorated with swastikas."
he photo was taken during the Nazi occupation of Paris. At that time Hildebrand Gurlitt (1895-1956) was in Paris buying artworks on the orders of Adolf Hitler, usually for absurdly small prices which in no way reflected their real market value.
The works were often extorted from Jewish art dealers or collectors; in other words, they were stolen from those who lived in fear of death. From 1941, more than 65,000 Jewish people were taken to the Drancy internment camp near Paris before being deported to Nazi death camps and murdered.
'A sad time for Jewish people'
Visitors to the Israel Museum like Miri Rosin well-know this history. It's part of the emotional baggage they bring to the newly unveiled exhibition, "Fateful Choices: Art from the Gurlitt Trove," which has already shown in Bern, Bonn and Berlin.
The Israel Museum is displaying a selection of works from the collection that was discovered in the possession of Cornelius Gurlitt, son of the aforementioned art dealer. Among the 100 paintings, drawings and sculptures are works by many illustrious artists: Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Auguste Rodin, Paul Gauguin, Aristide Maillol, Gustave Courbet, Edvard Munch, Otto Dix and Max Ernst.
There are not many historical photos to be found in the exhibition, like the one of the Parisian street displaying swastikas. "It was a sad time for the Jewish people and we don't need to be constantly reminded of it," said the curator Shlomit Steinberg. "It's in our blood, our bones, people's hands tattooed with blue numbers. There is no need to bring the Holocaust into this exhibition. Of course it is in the background. But it shouldn't be the center.”
Of course, the exhibition also deals with the circumstances and the person of art historian and collector Hildebrand Gurlitt, including his family history, his trading in "degenerate art," and Gurlitt's time as an art dealer in Paris.
Under Hitler's orders, Gurlitt bought and sold so-called degenerate art and in doing so collected foreign currency for the Third Reich. He also bought art in Paris and other places for Hitler's planned Führermuseum in Linz, Austria. He spent the remainder of his life as a museum director and art collector in Dusseldorf, and passed on his collection to his son Cornelius.
'Nazi treasure' little known in Israel
A number of "degenerate" art pieces were among the 1590 works recovered from the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt in 2012. Dubbed the "Schwabing art trove" and "Nazi treasure", the discovery triggered a worldwide outcry.
Yet the find attracted little attention in Israel. "This is the first I've heard of it,” confesses Deborah Eytan, who came to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv for the opening of the exhibition and now finds the history of the art dealer "absolutely fascinating."
Gurlitt initially promoted avant garde art before serving the Nazi party by extorting artworks from Jewish families — despite, or perhaps because of, having a Jewish grandmother, which made him a "quarter Jewish" according to the Nuremberg Laws. He acquired art suited to Hitler's taste and yet clearly kept certain degenerate art works for his own collection.
But much else is not clear about Gurlitt's story. "The exhibition asks more questions than it answers," concluded the 36-year-old Eytan, who also feels a personal connection to the story of the Nazi-era art dealer.
Her great-grandfather fled Nazi Germany for London after Hitler seized power in 1933. He had been an art dealer whose business was eventually "aryanized" as artworks were increasingly bought by Nazi-employed dealers — men like Gurlitt. Once in exile in London, in 1934 he curated one of the earliest exhibitions of works by persecuted artists — Sotheby's in London recently showed an exhibition about emigrant groups who revolutionized the British art scene, including Eytan's great-grandfather.
Many visitors to the exhibition opening in Jerusalem have been inspired to consider their own family histories. "I am the daughter of Holocaust survivors," says Ada Makavitz-Ottervanger, a member of the group Friends of the Israel Museum. She finds the exhibition extremely moving. "The art itself is beautiful."
Makavitz-Ottervanger feels that the exhibition will bring a sense of justice. "We are now able to see this art in Jerusalem, and it is no longer kept in secret somewhere," she said.
'Provenance undergoing clarification'
Miri Rosin is standing in front of two 1895 paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir with the title Scenes from Oedipus Rex. "I've seen lots of Renoirs," says the Israeli, "but these two really are something special. Very different from everything that I know about Renoir." Beneath the title of the work a sign reads: "Provenance undergoing clarification."
On the issue of provenance, Miri Roisin believes the works should remain in Israel. "They belong to the Jewish people," she told DW.
But only now is the number of artworks stolen from Jewish families in Paris and other parts of Europe coming to light. According to Artnet, around 500 works from the Gurlitt trove have been the subject of provenance investigations. Finding the original owners has not been easy. So far only seven of the works have been definitively identified as having been stolen. Five of them have been returned to the original owners' relatives.
The famous Max Liebermann work Two Riders on the Beach by Max Liebermanntypifies the ambiguity over provenance. The Taskforce created specifically for the Gurlitt trove was able to identify New Yorker David Toren as the legitimate heir after he sued the German government. Another version of the artwork, a smaller pastel sketch that might have a drafting of the original work, is displayed in Jerusalem, but provenance is still to be clarified.
"We would be very happy if someone would actually say 'I recognize this picture and I have a photo of it at home where my grandfather is sitting in his salon and this painting is right behind him'," says Ido Bruno, director of the Israel Museum. But he says that finding provenance is not ultimately the goal of the Gurlitt Trove exhibition, which is more concerned with confronting the public with moral and ethical questions.
"The exhibition is called ‘Fateful Choices' for a reason," says Bruno. "We are putting an emphasis on the moral and ethical questions which the story raises. One question is: 'What would you have done if you were in Gurlitt's shoes?''
"Fateful Choices: Art from the Gurlitt Trove" runs through January 15, 2020 at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem