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Munich Court Upholds Kunstmuseum Bern’s Claim to 1,000-Plus Gurlitt Collection Works

Kunstmuseum Bern.COURTESY WIKIMEDIA

Kunstmuseum Bern.

COURTESY WIKIMEDIA

A Munich court has rejected inheritance claims made by a cousin of Cornelius Gurlitt, a reclusive art collector who died at the age of 81 this past May, to Gurlitt’s collection of over 1,000 artworks, The New York Times reports. Before he died, Gurlitt had willed his art trove—comprised of works by Gauguin, Renoir, Monet, and Cézanne, originally purchased by his father for an art museum Hitler was planning—to the Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland. According to a statement released on the court’s website, the court has ruled that ownership belongs to the museum, dismissing the cousin’s claims that Gurlitt was unable to make a will at the time of its signing.

The works were rediscovered back in 2012 during a routine tax investigation of Gurlitt’s house. Afterwards, the article states,

The trove was discovered in 2012, when tax officers searched Mr. Gurlitt’s house as part of a routine tax investigation. The German government had kept the discovery a secret, but a German journalist learned of the investigation in late 2013.

The Kunstmuseum Bern signed an agreement accepting the works from the state of Bavaria in November. The museum was preparing to accept the trove when a lawsuit by Uta Werner, a cousin of Mr. Gurlitt, blocked their transfer that same month.

The museum has set up a task force to investigate which of the works might have been looted from Jewish families.  It has already identified several such pieces, including one by Matisse, and the museum plans to return them to the families of the original owners.

Werner has one month to appeal the court’s decision.

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