Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

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.

Back­ground

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.