Schjeldahl: If the Munich Hoard Were in a Museum, It’d Be in Storage

Peter Schjeldahl pretty much gets to the heart of the matter on the Munich Hoard: Where did Focus magazine get that $1bn valuation?

Every journalistic account of Gurlitt’s inventory reflexively bandies the word “masterpieces” or, for variety, “masterworks” and cites a speculated market value of a billion dollars. From what I’ve seen of the photographic evidence, phooey. Aside from a lovely Matisse, there appear to be only minor works, mostly by middling German Expressionist and Neue Sachlichkeit painters, of a grade that museums might want but would usually keep in storage. In 2011, Gurlitt sold probably the jewel of his hoard, “The Lion Tamer,” by Max Beckmann, for a bit more than a million dollars—which he had to share with heirs of its Jewish original owner. […] Gurlitt has been quoted as lamenting that people see “banknotes” in his cherished works on paper. Check. If it weren’t for a contact high from the lately intoxicated art market, and the Nazi angle, this whole affair would be back-page news.

Cornelius Gurlitt, the Art Hermit (The New Yorker)