Gurlitt Provenance Research
The Gurlitt Provenance Research Project was established as a follow-on project to the Schwabing Art Trove Taskforce and ran until December 31, 2017. It researched the origins (provenance) of the artworks that had been found at the homes of Cornelius Gurlitt (1932–2014) since 2012.A large number of written documents from Gurlitt’s estate were also listed in an inventory and made accessible.The aim of the provenance research was to clarify the historic ownership status of the suspicious artworks in order to establish whether any of them were Nazi-confiscated property and, if so, from whom they had been taken.The research work was conducted based on the agreement signed by the Federal government, the Free State of Bavaria and the Kunstmuseum Bern Foundation(agreement) in 2014.
The German Lost Art Foundation was the body responsible for the project between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2017. The project was funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.
The 1,566 artworks and bundles of items from the Gurlitt art trove had been dealt with by the Taskforce and the project by the end of 2017. Looking at the art trove as a whole, it becomes clear that it is not so much a collection of highly valuable artworks worth billions as was initially assumed, but rather a mixture of family heirlooms and dealer stock. It does contain some very high quality, outstanding pieces, but most of it consists of works on paper, including a large number of serial graphic works.
With regard to determining the provenance, a final classification of the artworks is being carried out according to the criteria in the agreement (traffic light system: red, yellow, green; for a definition of this, see Results). This is done after the completion of a review procedure (for details see Methodology, point 6) and the provision of closure notes.The procedures that are still outstanding and other documentation tasks are being concluded as part of a project entitled “Reviews, Dokumentation und anlassbezogene Forschungsarbeiten zum Kunstfund Gurlitt” which began on January 1, 2018.
The Schwabing Art Trove Taskforce was set up in November 2013 following the discovery of a hoard of artworks at the homes of Cornelius Gurlitt. It continued its work until December 31, 2015.
Because Cornelius Gurlitt’s father, Dr. Hildebrand Gurlitt (1895–1956), had been commissioned as an art dealer during the Nazi period to “dispose” of “degenerate artworks” and had also been one of the main art buyers for Nazi leaders, it was considered necessary to examine the origins of the artworks in his collection.
In April 2014, Cornelius Gurlitt signed an agreement with the German government and the Free State of Bavaria in which he agreed to allow provenance research work to be carried out and to help find just and fair solutions, particularly the restitution of Nazi-confiscated property in accordance with the German version of the Washington Principles on the basis of the Joint Declaration. Before he died in May 2014, Cornelius Gurlitt named the Kunstmuseum Bern Foundation as his sole heir. In November 2014, the Foundation affirmed its commitment to a comprehensive and transparent investigation into the origins of the artworks and, where appropriate, to restitution in accordance with the Washington Principles.