The Bern Art Museum seems to have decided to accept the Gurlitt Hoard and the research responsibility that comes with it. The decision will be a relief to those who have become overwhelmingly frustrated with the German government’s inability to make progress on this festering problem, Swissinfo explains:
US litigation lawyer, Nicholas O’Donnell, who specialises in wartime restitution claims and produces Art Law Report, has been following the case closely. He believes that the Bern museum will accept the gift, but would likely request some kind of indemnification from Germany to face either the expense of receiving the collection, or restitution costs.
“Germany must be considering the possibility just to get rid of the problem,” he told swissinfo.ch.
The Wall Street Journal gets behind the doors to hear what’s at issue with the museum’s decision:
The Kunstmuseum Bern’s legal team has been researching the artworks’ provenance since the museum was informed of the bequest on May 7. Barring a last-minute legal discovery that could scuttle the deal, the museum’s board of directors will accept the gift at its meeting on Saturday, the last of half a dozen deliberations regarding Mr. Gurlitt’s bequest. […]
Much of the delay in accepting the trove has come because the tiny museum needed to secure seven-figure private funding from Swiss donors to be as free as possible of German funding that the museum thought could taint the neutrality of their provenance research, people familiar with the deliberations said. […]
“It was obvious from the start, and a huge source of angst, that accepting the works would fundamentally change the identity of our museum forever,” said one major decision maker at the meetings. […]
“Either way you’re screwed. Not taking the works still leaves you with no paintings to bargain for exhibitions with. Taking them makes you ’the museum with the Nazi-Gurlitt art,’ ” said an art historian close to the Bern situation.
But for many voting Saturday, the temptation to establish a new identity for the museum overrides any qualms.
“If you had told us before he died, ‘Would you like to deal with the collection of some recluse whose father worked for the Nazis and have that tied to you forever?’ then we would have said ‘No way,’” said a person at the board meetings. “But ultimately when something like this falls into your lap of course you’re going to vote to take it.”
The Gurlitt art collection no one – and everyone – wants (SWI swissinfo.ch)