German government bows to pressure, creates task force to investigate Munich art cache
Officials publish 25 works with questionable provenance from Gurlitt collection online
By Julia Michalska. Web only
Published online: 13 November 2013
Amid international pressure, the German government has published 25 works online from the extraordinary discovery of 1,406 pieces of art found in a Munich apartment and will create a task force to speed up investigations into the provenance of the works.
“We want to move [the research] forward and we will announce further details on our procedure later this week,” a government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in Berlin on Monday. The government further revealed that 970 works are currently under investigation. The ownership history of 590 of them is unclear while 380 pieces were once classified as “degenerate art”. The remaining works were not acquired unlawfully, according to a government press statement.
The first 25 works with questionable provenance, from the so-called “Schwabing art trove”, were posted to the Lost Art database on 11 November, and the rest will be added online shortly. The New York Daily News reports that the lawyer acting on behalf of Anne Sinclair, the former wife of the French economist Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was “in the process of submitting a claim” for the Matisse painting Sitting Woman that was published on the site.
The government-initiated task force, meanwhile, will be made up of six experts in provenance research and will be run by the Berliner Arbeitsstelle für Provenienzrecherche (Berlin centre for provenance research) with Ingeborg Berggreen-Merkel at the helm.
According to media reports, Cornelius Gurlitt, the owner of the Munich flat in which the discovery was made and whose whereabouts have hitherto been unknown, was spotted boarding a plane at Munich airport. He is the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, a Hamburg dealer who was commissioned by the Nazis to sell “degenerate art” abroad.
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