Gurlitt Trove

In March 2012, German authorities discovered over 1,200 artworks, many of which are suspected of having been looted by the Nazis, in the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of Nazi-associated art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt. However, the discovery was not made public until a German magazine broke the story in November 2013. About 250 additional works were subsequently found in two additional Gurlitt family residences in Austria. Artworks that potentially have a suspicious Nazi-era provenance are listed on the German Lost Art website. This includes 464 objects of the Munich art trove, 33 estate objects, as well as one other item (“Suitcase finding”).

In November 2013, the German Government founded the Schwabing Art Trove Task Force (Schwabinger Kunstfund) under the leadership of Dr. Ingeborg Berggreen-Merkel. The Claims Conference  was represented in the Taskforce by two art experts, Agnes Peresztegi and Sophie Lillie. In December 2015, the Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund  concluded its work as planned and published its final report. The final report includes a fact sheet (also available in English): Overall 1,258 artworks were part of Gurlitt’s collection, which included the 1,224 artworks seized in his apartment, as well as 34 artworks which were entrusted to the Taskforce after Gurlitt’s death. 507 were found not be Nazi-looted, while 499 artworks are possible Nazi looted art. Overall, the Taskforce received 200 inquiries: 4 claims were successfully resolved and the Nazi-looted loss was confirmed. In one other case, a Nazi-loss was confirmed without the receipt of an application. The final reports in these five cases are available on the German Lost Art website. The Claims Conference’s Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR):  Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume is cited in many of these cases.

In January 2016, the German Lost Art Foundation launched a new project entitled “Gurlitt Provenance Research” which aims to continue the work of the Taskforce. As of 2021, the Taskforce completed the review of 1,039 artworks, including 724 completed reviews and 315 works labeled as “degenerative art” and therefore the responsibility of the Kunstmuseum Bern. Of the 724 completed reviews, 4 artworks fell into the red category, 650 into the yellow category, 28 into the green category, 42 artworks awaited review and an additional 315 works were categorized as “degenerative art” and therefore the responsibility of the Kunstmuseum Bern. As of September 2020, 647 case reports are viewable on the German Lost Art Foundation website.

The Claims Conference reviewed the results of the Gurlitt Provenance Research and found that 385 artworks were appropriately categorized as “yellow.” 155 artworks that were also categorized as “yellow” should be reviewed again as most of these cases have one or more red flags. The review also found that an additional 77 cases should be more appropriately categorized as “orange”. In 54 out of the 77 cases a claim was filed. In other words, the Claims Conference believes that 232 cases should be reviewed again.