'Degenerate' art from Nazi-era trove on display

AFP
ABOUT 150 artworks from a massive trove amassed by a German collector during the Nazi era went on public display for the first time in the Swiss capital.
AFP

ABOUT 150 artworks from a massive trove amassed by a German collector during the Nazi era went on public display for the first time on Wednesday in the Swiss capital, amid lingering questions about the origins of the collection.

German art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt built up the collection after being enlisted by the Nazis to sell so-called “degenerate” modern art they had seized from German museums.

His son Cornelius Gurlitt inherited the art and then kept it stored in his Munich apartment for decades. The Kunst Museum Bern was stunned to learn in May 2014, the day after Gurlitt’s death, that it had been named as the sole heir to 1,500 works, including paintings by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.

Its exhibition “Degenerate Art — Confiscated and Sold” is composed mainly of drawings, lithographs and paintings confiscated by the Nazis from museums and acquired by Hildebrand Gurlitt.

“For the most part we know exactly when the works were confiscated, from which German museum,” said Nina Zimmer, director of the Bern Art Museum.

“We only have taken works where we are 100 percent sure they were not looted (from private owners),” she said, adding that a further 300 “degenerate” works were awaiting clarification of their ownership as intensive research continued.

“Art, after 70 years, needs to see the light of day and the public needs to reconnect with the artworks,” Zimmer said.

AFP

The exhibition “Degenerate Art — Confiscated and Sold” 

A separate exhibition of works from the Gurlitt collection opened in Bonn on Friday with the title “Nazi Art Theft and Its Consequences.”

German tax inspectors discovered Cornelius Gurlitt’s art collection during a raid on his Munich home in 2012, after a customs inspection on a train from Zurich triggered a tax evasion probe.

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said on Wednesday: “There are still museums and collections that do not do provenance research.

“And unfortunately the archives are still not as accessible as they should be.

“Some institutions prefer to hide behind data protection regulations.”


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