BERLIN (AP) — A Swiss museum to which the late collector Cornelius Gurlitt bequeathed an art trove he amassed at his home said Friday it will relinquish ownership of works where no specific evidence has been found they were looted under Nazi rule, but where research points to “conspicuous circumstances.”
The reclusive Gurlitt, who died in 2014, had squirreled away more than 1,200 works in his Munich apartment and a further 250 or so at a property in Salzburg, Austria. He inherited much of the collection from his father, an art dealer who traded in works confiscated by the Nazis.
Authorities first stumbled on the art while investigating a tax case in 2012.
Gurlitt’s will bequeathed roughly 1,600 works to Switzerland’s Kunstmuseum Bern. A German government-backed foundation worked with it to ensure that any pieces looted from Jewish owners were returned to their heirs, and German authorities said in January that 14 works from the Gurlitt collection that were proven to have been looted had been handed over.
The museum said Friday that it “will give up its ownership of any works of unclarified provenance that may lack specific evidence of being Nazi-looted art but for which implications of looted art and/or conspicuous circumstances exist.”
It said that there are 29 works in that category. The museum proposed that two watercolors by German artist Otto Dix be transferred jointly to the descendants of two possible rightful owners. Another five will be handed over to German authorities and the remaining 22 will remain at the museum for further research.
The museum said it is putting the works in the bequest online and that “new research findings will be immediately published in the database and thus … made internationally accessible.” It said it also will publish the research and considerations behind its decision-making.
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