Swiss museum to accept 'Nazi art' collection

Cornelius Gurlitt left the paintings to the Kunstmuseum Bern after his death

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The Independent Culture

Hundreds of artworks left to a Swiss museum by Nazi-era art hoarder Cornelius Gurlitt are to be housed there until their rightful owners are located.

The Kunstmuseum Bern has agreed to accept the paintings after Gurlitt, the son of Adolf Hitler's art dealer, made it his “sole heir” when he died last May.

However, legal disputes are on-going over those artworks believed to have been stolen from Jewish owners by the Nazis.

Gurlitt’s collection of more than 1,200 artworks includes pieces by masters such as Monet, Chagall, Picasso and Matisse.

The paintings were seized by Bavarian authorities after tax inspectors discovered them in Gurlitt’s Munich flat in February 2012.

Christoph Schaeublin, president of the Bern Museum, told the Associated Press that the decision to accept the bequeathed artworks was “anything but easy”.

“There certainly weren’t emotions of triumph,” he said. “These would be entirely inappropriate considering the historic burden weighing heavily on this art collection.

“The ultimate aim was to clarify how the Bern could meet the responsibility imposed upon them by the bequest.”

Schaeublin added that no artwork suspected of being looted will enter the museum. Instead, extensive research will be undertaken to determine the origin of the paintings and return any looted pieces to their owners.

Christoph Schaeublin discusses the Gurlitt Collection

Should no owner be found for a looted artwork, an agreement between the museum and German authorities states that it will be exhibited with an explanation of its origins so that the “rightful owners will have the opportunity to submit their claims”.

An estimated 750,000 pieces of European art were stolen or destroyed by the Nazis during World War II. Modern 'degenerate' art was considered a bad influence on the German people.

The museum has been warned to expect an “avalanche” of lawsuits by the World Jewish Congress.