- Title: Swiss museum unveils Nazi era artworks from controversial Gurlitt's collection
- Date: 7th July 2017
- Summary: BERN, SWITZERLAND (JULY 7, 2017) (REUTERS) **** WARNING CONTAINS FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY **** BERN FINE ARTS MUSEUM SIGN READING (Swiss German) "BERN FINE ARTS MUSEUM" GERMAN EXPRESSIONIST AUGUST MACKE'S "LANDSCAPE WITH SAILING BOATS" 1913 / 1914 BEING UNVEILED / BERN FINE ARTS MUSEUM'S DIRECTOR NINA ZIMMER SPEAKING DURING UNVEILING VARIOUS OF GERMAN EXPRESSIONIST AUGUST MACKE'S "LANDSCAPE WITH SAILING BOATS" GERMAN PAINTER AND PRINTMAKER OTTO DIX'S "SCHUTZE VOM INFANTERIE REGIMENT" BEING UNVEILED JOURNALISTS DIX'S "SCHUTZE VOM INFANTERIE REGIMENT" GERMAN EXPRESSIONIST AUGUST MACKE'S WATERCOLOR BEING UNVEILED (SOUNDBITE) (English) BERN FINE ARTS MUSEUM'S DIRECTOR, NINA ZIMMER, SAYING: "These are the works that the Nazis confiscated from German museums, and they were legally sold on the international market." VARIOUS OF GERMAN ARTIST OTTO MUELLER'S WATERCOLOR "NAKED WOMAN LYING BY THE WATER" BEING SHOWN / BERN FINE ARTS MUSEUM'S DIRECTOR NINA ZIMMER TALKING ABOUT IT DURING UNVEILING (SOUNDBITE) (English) BERN FINE ARTS MUSEUM'S DIRECTOR, NINA ZIMMER, SAYING: "For these works, we know the exact day when they were acquired by German museums, so they were in the public possession of these museums, and we know often times the exact date when Hildebrand Gurlitt bought them, after they were confiscated, so there is a clear chain of provenance established, so we are sure there are no private persons who have been harmed in,â€¦ their possessions have not been confiscated but it was public holdings." ARTWORKS FROM THE GURLITT COLLECTION INHERITED BY THE MUSEUM MACKE'S WATERCOLOR VARIOUS OF GERMAN ARTIST ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER'S "MELANCHOLISCHES MADCHEN", 1922 MUELLER'S "NAKED WOMAN LYING BY THE WATER" (SOUNDBITE) (English) BERN FINE ARTS MUSEUM'S DIRECTOR, NINA ZIMMER, SAYING: "Every restitution is a victory for us, that is what we are working for... but I can't make any promises." VARIOUS OF ZIMMER AND NATHALIE BASCHLIN, BERN FINE ARTS'S MUSEUM'S RESTORATION DEPARTMENT HEAD, DURING PRESENTATION TO JOURNALISTS JOURNALISTS ARTWORKS ON DISPLAY MUELLER'S "MASCHKA" (SOUNDBITE) (English) BERN FINE ARTS'S MUSEUM'S RESTORATION DEPARTMENT HEAD, NATHALIE BASCHLIN, SAYING: "What will we have to do now? We have to do to really check them as well, to look at them very closely, to see which are the techniques, which are the damages, we have mold problems, we have to check very precisely, so that is our first thing, we really have to look close to the works. And the second part then is to do the conservation and restoration work." VARIOUS OF PACKAGES CONTAINING ARTWORKS FROM THE GURLITT COLLECTION WHICH HAVE JUST ARRIVED, YET TO BE EXAMINED AND RESTORED (SOUNDBITE) (English) BERN FINE ARTS MUSEUM'S DIRECTOR NINA ZIMMER SAYING: "This exhibition and this whole case is not about art history alone. This is always and forever about history and modern history in the twentieth century, and post-war history, war history, and for us, it is important to always talk about these two things at the same time, so the exhibition will be two-fold. And we have curators in our team who are art historians, we have curators who are historians and provenance experts. So, I think the mix is really what is important here to get a full picture of the importance of the case." BASCHLIN PUTTING THE PROTECTIVE COVER BACK ON THE ARTWORKS
- Embargoed: 21st July 2017 18:46
- Keywords: art Nazi Mueller Gurlitt museum paintings
- Location: BERN, SWITZERLAND
- City: BERN, SWITZERLAND
- Country: Switzerland
- Topics: Art,Arts / Culture / Entertainment,Human Interest / Brights / Odd News
- Reuters ID: LVA0016OPZKNT
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Bern Fine Arts Museum unveiled on Friday (July 7) a handful of artworks which belonged to the controversial Gurlitt's collection that the museum unexpectedly inherited in 2014 from a German recluse Cornelius Gurlitt, whose secret collection included masterpieces looted from their Jewish owners by the Nazis.
When Gurlitt died in May 2014 aged 81, the museum discovered it had been named sole heir to his collection of over 1,200 works, including works from German painters and artists Otto Dix, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, August Macke, Otto Mueller. They had been hidden for decades until tax inspectors stumbled upon them in a raid on his Munich flat in 2012.
The improbable treasure trove of Modernist and Renaissance masterpieces was assembled by his father Hildebrand Gurlitt, a dealer charged with selling what Adolf Hitler dismissed as "degenerate" art.
After a long legal battle with Gurlitt's heirs, 150 pieces finally arrived on Thursday (July 6) at the Museum, which will exhibit them in November.
According to the museum, the pieces which will be shown in Bern were all acquired legally during the Nazi eta, and their origin can be fully traced. Most of the 200 pieces to be on display belonged to German museums and were confiscated because they were considered as "degenerate art", as opposed to a more conservative art, championing tradition, fostered by the regime in place.
The pieces, paintings and prints, belong to art movements from symbolism, expressionism, constructivism to new objectivity.
An art dealer and a Jew himself, Gurlitt was in charge of selling them.
In parallel to the Bern exhibition, one will be held at the same time in Bonn, Germany, focusing on the art that was confiscated by the National Socialists as a result of persecution.
The provenance of many of the artworks have not yet been clarified, and the art experts are still working on determining the origin of many of them.
For now, it has been determined with certainty that five artworks of the collection had been looted from their Jewish owners. Four have been returned to their owners, but the Museum said it was ready, and willing, to hand over any pieces which would prove to have been looted.
In the same way, the Museum said it would be specifically generous with the museums which originally owned the pieces, which would be keen on having them for exhibition.
Stocked in bad conditions, some of the works are damaged and need to be restored, obligating the experts to find the right balance between keeping some damages as proof of the very specific history they went through and restoring them entirely.
The exhibition will provide an opportunity to focus and try and understand the political context that led to the vilification and exploitation of modern art, as well as how persecution was used to loot art.
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