Thu, Nov 02, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Dual exhibitions lift veil on Nazi-era art collection

UNFRAMED AND MOLDY:The art works confiscated by the Nazi’s due to being ‘degenerate’ are to be displayed for the first time since their discovery in 2012

AFP, BERN

Portions of the spectacular art collection hoarded by the son of a Nazi-era dealer will be shown for the first time since World War II in parallel exhibitions in Switzerland and Germany starting today.

“Gurlitt: Status Report,” which displays about 450 works by masters including Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Pablo Picasso, aims to shed a light on the systematic looting of Jewish collections under Adolf Hitler.

The works in the two exhibitions, which are to run in Bern and the German city of Bonn until March next year, are just a small fraction of the more than 1,500 pieces discovered in 2012 in the possession of Cornelius Gurlitt.

His father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, worked as an art dealer for the Nazis starting in 1938. The discovery of the stash made headlines around the world and revived an emotional debate about how thoroughly Germany had dealt with art plundered by the Nazi regime.

“At last it is out of hiding,” the German weekly Die Zeit said about the collection: “For the first time it will be possible to view what many have spoken and written about in the past few years, without being able to see it so far.”

The show, split between the two museums, is the result of years of disputed research into Gurlitt’s collection, which was discovered in the course of a tax probe.

Inspectors found the works in Gurlitt’s Salzburg home and his cluttered Munich apartment, many in poor condition, unframed and moldy.

“With these two exhibitions, we wish to pay homage to the people who became victims of the National Socialist art theft, as well as the artists who were defamed and persecuted by the regime as ‘degenerate,’” Rein Wolfs and Nina Zimmer, directors of the Kunsthalle Bonn and the Kunstmuseum Bern respectively, said in a statement.

Gurlitt, who died in 2014 at the age of 81, was described in the media as a recluse who lived off of the sale of his collection, valued in the millions of euros.

The exhibition in Bern will focus on modern works that were in 1937 classified by the Nazis as “Degenerate Art” and confiscated for sale abroad. In Bonn, the show will present art that was looted from victims of the Nazi regime and works whose provenance has not yet been established.

The exhibits themselves have prompted difficult legal tangles. When Gurlitt died he left more than 1,500 artworks to the Bern museum. It accepted the collection, although it left about 500 works in Germany so that a government task force could research their often murky origins.

However, determining their provenance has been slow and it is not yet clear how many of the works were stolen. Researchers have definitively identified just six works of art as looted from Jewish owners.

Four, including Max Liebermann’s Riders on the Beach and Henri Matisse’s Seated Woman, have now been returned to their heirs.

Last week, the German Lost Art Foundation said it had identified a painting by Thomas Couture as belonging to French Jewish politician and resistance leader Georges Mandel.

Other families have also tried to lay claims to works.

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