Cornelius Gurlitt, photo by Markus Hannich
Officials will continue to investigate the “Schwabing Art Trove” for Nazi looted art; pieces not under investigation will be returned “without delay.”
Those are the conditions of the agreement reached by Bavarian officials and Nazi-era art hoarder Cornelius Gurlitt, who’s been a focus of media attention since officials seized over 1,400 pieces (valued at $1.3 billion) from his home in Munich two years ago.
The agreement was made independent of criminal proceedings, according to a joint press release issued by Bavarian state officials yesterday. Gurlitt faces charges for tax evasion and misappropriation, for knowingly inheriting stolen property acquired by his father, Dr. Hildebrand Gurlitt, during the Nazi era.
In the statement released yesterday, Minister of State Monika Grütters said the decision "sends a clear signal within Germany and beyond that [the state] will not allow Nazi injustice to stand, even 70 years after World War II."
The artworks seized from Gurlitt in 2012 will continue to remain in secure custody while a special task force investigates his collection. They will also continue to be listed on www.lostart.de, Germany’s online database of cultural artifacts lost during World War II.
State officials did commend Gurlitt on demonstrating “moral responsibility” and cooperating with authorities. After a few PR hiccups including a video that went viral of Gurlitt saying he wouldn’t return any art, Gorlitt and his lawyers have worked on improving his public image. They created a website devoted to his case, including an interesting and delightfully defensive FAQ page.
Bavarian officials said they expect the task force to complete its provenance research within a year. Excluding those with restitution claims, artworks not investigated within the year will be returned to Gurlitt with the understanding the task force will have continued access to the collection to investigate each piece. The agreement also allows Gurlitt to appoint one researcher to the investigative team to ensure his interests are protected.