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Jewish World Congress president Ronald Lauder has publicly threatened the Kunstmuseum Bern with an "avalanche" of lawsuits if the institution accepts the collection of approximately 1,300 artworks bequeathed to it by the late Cornelius Gurlitt - stated in an article published by German weekly "Der Spiegel." The museum is currently still in the process of making this delicate decision - whether or not to accept the collection - which includes works by Henri Matisse, Max Liebermann, Otto Dix, and Marc Chagall, among others famous artists.

Gurlitt died on May 6th of this year, leaving the entire collection to the Swiss museum - but nearly 600 works from the collection are suspected to be of questionable provenance, possibly Nazi loot.

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A Renaissance silver-gilt and enamel salt cellar, bequeathed by collector Michael Wellby to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, has been identified as Nazi loot. It will thus be returned to the descendants of its pre-WWII owner.

The intricate piece is one of the 500 silverware items—believed to be worth in excess of £10 million—donated to the museum in 2012 by Wellby, a former friend of Professor Timothy Wilson, the museum's Keeper of Western Art.

Published in News
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 11:59

Art Hoarder Cornelius Gurlitt Left Second Will

The late German recluse who hoarded a priceless art trove, some of it suspected Nazi loot, left two wills, a court said Tuesday, adding however that they "complement each other".

The Munich court did not reveal the beneficiary but said both documents named the same recipient or recipients of the spectacular estate of Cornelius Gurlitt, who died last week aged 81.

The art treasure of Gurlitt, the son of a Nazi-era art dealer, came to light last year, with many works believed to have been stolen or extorted from Jewish collectors, sparking claims by some of their descendants.

Published in News
Tuesday, 06 May 2014 13:15

Art Hoarder Cornelius Gurlitt has Died

Art hoarder Cornelius Gurlitt — whose vast trove of possibly Nazi-looted works has made headlines since its existence was revealed late last year — passed away on the morning of May 5 at his apartment in Schwabing, according to a statement sent today from the office of Gurlitt spokesperson Stephan Holzinger. He was 81.

“After a serious heart surgery and a week-long stay in a hospital, it was the request of the deceased to return to his apartment in Schwabing,” reads the statement from Gurlitt’s reps Stephan Holzinger and Dr. Rönsberg Setz, signed also by his lawyers Christoph Edel and Prof. Dr. Park. “There he was in nursing care and taken care off in recent weeks around the clock.”

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The Henie Onstad Art Center in Norway has agreed to return a portrait by Henri Matisse to the family of Paul Rosenberg, a Jewish art dealer who had his collection confiscated by Nazis during World War II. The museum was founded in 1968 by the Olympic figure skating champion, Sonja Henie, and her husband, Niels Onstad, a shipping magnate and art collector.

The Matisse painting was among the 162 works seized from Rosenberg by Nazis in 1941. The canvas was briefly in the possession of Hermann Goering, a leading member of the Nazi party. Onstad acquired the Matisse painting, “Woman in Blue in Front of a Fireplace,” in 1950, unaware of its troubled provenance. In 2012, the Rosenberg family’s lawyer contacted the Henie Onstad Art Center and demanded the restitution of the painting. After an extensive investigation, the museum decided to return the work to Rosenberg’s heirs. The painting, which had been one of the museum’s most popular works, is estimated to be worth around $20 million.

Norway is a signatory of the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, which requires museums to examine their collections for potentially looted works. If stolen works are found, the museums are required to try to locate the rightful owners. The Henie Onstad Art Center investigated the Matisse painting’s past only after being contacted by the Rosenbergs’ lawyer. 

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Tobias Natter, director of Vienna’s Leopold Museum, abruptly announced his resignation to protest ties between museum board members and a new foundation established to manage the Gustav Klimt collection once belonging to Gustav Ucicky, the artist’s son and a director of Nazi propaganda films.

Natter told Bloomberg, “I see this as a huge problem for the museum. Ucicky collected in the Nazi era. The shadow of looted art has hung so heavily over the Leopold in the past years. Why do we have to get into bed with these people? It is incompatible and a conflict of interests in so many different ways.” The Gustav Klimt Wien 1900 foundation owns 4 oil paintings by the artist as well as 10 drawings and an assortment of other documents and photographs. The entire collection is estimated to be worth $275 million. Ucicky’s wife, Ursula, who was given the collection upon her husband’s death in 1961, established the new foundation.

In 2010, The Leopold Museum paid $19 million to the heirs of the Jewish art dealer Lea Bondi Jaray to settle a decades-long dispute over a portrait by Egon Schiele. The museum has faced a spate of other restitution claims over the years.


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French senator Corinne Bouchoux is urging French museum officials to take closer looks at their prized holdings as many public art collections contain works looted by Nazis during World War II. Bouchoux has led an investigative committee devoted to uncovering Nazi-looted artwork in France, which prompted her to ask museums to be more thorough in their provenance research.

Bouchoux revealed that out of the 100,000 artworks stolen from Jewish families in France and Belgium, approximately 2,000 of those works were still present in French museums. Many of these museums were designated “national museums of recovery,” which allowed the institutions to keep the works as long as they did not become property of the state and if identified, the rightful owners could reclaim them.

Bouchoux wrote her doctoral thesis, which has just been published as a book, on Nazi-looted art in France and has suggested nine proposals to direct the stolen works back to their rightful owners or offer restitution for them.

In line with Bouchoux’s efforts, the Shoal Memorial in Paris presents the exhibition Looting of the Jews: A State Policy (1940-44), which grants visitors a glimpse of the goods, including artworks, that originally belonged to Jews in France. The show is on view through September 29, 2013.

Published in News
Friday, 02 November 2012 20:23

Former Owners Request Return of Monet Painting

Juan Carlos Emden, the grandson of a wealthy Jewish businessman, is demanding that the Swiss Buehrle collection return a Claude Monet painting that the family was forced to sell as they fled Europe during World War II. The masterpiece was sold in haste for a little less than $32,000. The painting today is valued at around $27 million.

Emden is the Chilean grandson of Max Emden who bought Monet’s Poppy Field Near Vetheuil in the 1920s. Max was forced to flee Nazi Germany in 1933 for Ticino, Switzerland, where he built the Villa Emden to house his art collection, including Poppy Field Near Vetheuil, one of Monet’s most famous paintings. After his death in 1940, Emden’s son, Hans Eric Emden, was forced to sell his father’s art collection to finance his fleeing to South America from Europe.

Juan Carlos Emden is rumored to have been fighting for years to regain ownership of his grandfather’s painting and is planning to travel to Zurich to discuss how to recover the work with his lawyers. Poppy Field Near Vetheuil was stolen during a heist at the Buehrle museum in 2008, but it was found several days later.

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A 500-year-old sculpture looted by the Nazis for Adolf Hitler's planned “Fuehrermuseum” in the Austrian city of Linz was today returned to heirs of the original owner by Dresden’s state art collections.

The wooden sculpture of St. Peter was one of about 560 artworks seized from Jewish collectors for Hitler’s museum. The Germany-based family to whom the sculpture has been restituted does not wish to be identified by name and plans to keep the artwork, according to Gilbert Lupfer, the head of provenance research for Dresden’s public art collections.

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Berlin’s first Jewish Museum opened in January 1933, just one week before the Nazis seized power. Karl Schwarz, its founder, realized immediately that the museum was doomed and his life was in danger.

He fled Berlin for Tel Aviv months after opening the museum, which he’d worked for years to turn into a reality.

“The new museum had only just been founded and I had to leave it!” he wrote in his memoir. “But these considerations were hardly worth anything; much more important things were at stake -- my life, my work, my children’s future. I knew absolutely: There was nothing to hope for here.”

Almost 80 years and much painstaking research later, the Centrum Judaicum, on the site of the former museum, has reassembled some of the lost art for an exhibition titled “The Berlin Jewish Museum (1933-1938): Traces of a Lost Collection.”

Schwarz described his last tour of the museum in June 1933, the day before he left. “It seemed to me that the smell of Death already wafted through the halls,” he said.

Next to the New Synagogue on central Oranienburgerstrasse, the museum did survive for another five years, becoming an important refuge for Jewish artists, before being taken over and sealed by the Nazis in the pogroms of November 1938.

Its content, including paintings by Max Liebermann, Marc Chagall, Lesser Ury, Moritz Oppenheim and Leonid Pasternak, was seized and hidden: Some paintings were stashed in a vault on the other side of the city.

Lengthy Quest

The new show is the result of a 30-year quest by Hermann Simon, the director of the Centrum Judaicum, aided since about 1990 by his deputy Chana Schuetz.

Most of the recovered artworks are in Berlin on temporary loan for the exhibition, though the quest -- and the show --also paved the way for at least one restitution.

An examination of the back of a painting by Max Liebermann revealed that it never belonged to the Berlin Jewish Museum but was on loan from Liebermann’s widow, Martha. It will be returned by Jerusalem’s Israel Museum to the artist’s family after the show, the museum said in a statement yesterday.

The 1934 painting, one of Liebermann’s last, shows “The Return of Tobias,” a scene from the Book of Tobit. Liebermann intended it as a call to German Jews to return to Judaism in the face of Nazi persecution -- just as Tobias returned home to try to heal his father’s sight, Schuetz explained.

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