A Swiss museum has accepted a priceless collection of long-hidden art bequeathed to it by German collector Cornelius Gurlitt.
Kunstmuseum Bern’s president Christoph Schaeublin announced in Berlin that the museum would accept the collection, but would work to ensure that any art looted from Jewish owners by the Nazis is returned.
Bavarian authorities seized 1,280 items from Mr Gurlitt’s apartment in Munich in 2012 while investigating a tax case. Mr Gurlitt later reached a deal with the German government to check whether any of the works were looted. Authorities said the deal is binding on any heirs.
One of Mr Gurlitt’s cousins has filed a claim, which a Munich court said would have to be dealt with before the collection goes anywhere.
Mr Schaeublin said the decision to accept had followed long, difficult deliberations.
“The ultimate aim was to clarify how the Kunstmuseum Bern could meet the responsibilities imposed upon them by the bequest,” he said.
Shortly before he died, Mr Gurlitt reached a deal with the German government to check whether hundreds of the works were looted from Jewish owners by the Nazis.
Mr Schaeublin said the museum would undertake extensive research to determine the provenance of the works.
According to an agreement the museum worked out with German authorities, a task force set up by the government will also continue to investigate the background of the art to determine if it was looted, and whom it was looted from.
If no owner can be found for a looted piece, the agreement calls for the work to be exhibited in Germany with an explanation of its origins so the “rightful owners will have the opportunity to submit their claims”.
German officials said all works will remain in Germany until the task force finishes its work. An update on the research is expected “in the course of 2015”.