Two immediate questions come out of today’s astounding news that German authorities discovered a trove of 1500 looted works two years ago. Why have the German authorities kept the discovery quiet and how was the man in possession of these works able to sell them for cash to live on when hundreds were on lists of stolen art.
The Art Newspaper digs out the answers from the story in Focus magazine:
According to the magazine, the discovery was treated as a “highly political secret” by the Munich authorities, who knew that its announcement would provoke a flood of restitution claims. Apparently claims were already on record for 200 of the works by people hopeful that they would one day turn up. These include TV journalist Anne Sinclair, granddaughter of the Jewish art dealer Paul Rosenberg and wife of the French banker and politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Three hundred of the works belonged to the list of “Degenerate Art” compiled by the Nazis. Meike Hoffmann of the Freie Universität, Berlin, is currently studying the provenance of all 1500 pieces and assessing their value.
How did Hildebrand Gurlitt’s son make the sales?
From some empty frames and documentation it seems that his son survived for the next 60 years by selling off pictures for cash. It is not clear how he managed to sell a painting by Max Beckmann, “The Lion Tamer”, through Lempertz auction house for €864,000 months after his flat had been cleared by the authorities. Lempertz says it is not on the Art Loss Register’s list of Nazi-looted works.
1,500 lost works of art worth perhaps €1billion found in Munich flat (The Art Newspaper)