Almost none of the legal issues flowing from the seizure of some 1,280 works of art from Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment in 2012, his agreement with the Bavarian prosecutor, and the ongoing review of the collection for connections to Nazi looting can be resolved until his named heir—the Kunstmuseum Bern—decides whether or not to accept that appointment. When the one-year review deadline passes (with only two public recommendations made so far), it is entirely unclear who will stand for Gurlitt’s “rights” over what is left.
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It is hardly surprising that the question is a difficult one, but nearly six months after Gurlitt’s death, the museum has not tipped its hand. An article today in the Berner Zeitung reports on a brewing political debate over whether to spend public funds to accommodate the collection. “No tax millions for the Gurlitt collection,” said Samuel Leuenberger (from Trubschachen) in the Grosser Rat, Bern’s regional (Canton) senior legislative council. Bern is already considering additional expenditures for the Paul Klee center, and the Gurlitt prospect has apparently struck a nerve with many.
On the other side of the debate, delegates urged consideration of the tourist and economic possibilities. Beat Giauque (from Ittigen) argued “This is a chance for Bern! Why rule it out before the details are known?”
One has to wonder if the museum is waiting to see how this breaks down. Putting all other factors in the decision aside for a moment, accommodating the size of a collection of that quality would clearly require substantial investment, and whether the canton foots the bill may have more of an effect than we had previously considered.