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Stolen art in gift to museum


Stolen art in gift to museum

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BERLIN (AP) – The Jewish Claims Conference said today it has already identified a painting stolen by the Nazis among a newly published inventory of hundreds of works that belonged to late German collector Cornelius Gurlitt, and pushed for more time to investigate others.

Executive vice president Greg Schneider said in an email to The Associated Press that a Pissaro among about 250 artworks found in Gurlitt’s Salzburg property matched one on a looted-art list.

Switzerland’s Kunstmuseum Bern, which inherited the collection, posted lists of the Salzburg works and some of the 1 280 others found in Gurlitt’s Munich apartment online yesterday.

While some of the Munich works were already known, it was the first look for many at the art Gurlitt kept in the house he owned in Austria. It includes works by Breughel, Monet, Renoir and Picasso.

Gurlitt inherited much of the art from his father, who in the 1930s helped the Nazis sell art they considered “degenerate” to buyers outside of Germany for cash. Some of the works – including Impressionist and modern masterpieces – had been seized by the Nazis from museums, while others were stolen or bought for a pittance from Jewish collectors who were forced to sell.

Gurlitt died in May at age 81, designating the Swiss museum as his sole heir.

On Monday, the museum announced its decision to accept the bequest, promising to ensure any Nazi-looted pieces were returned to their rightful heirs.

In an agreement with German authorities, the museum said it would work closely with the government task force already looking into the provenance of the Gurlitt art from Munich. It said it would evaluate the Salzburg works alone, however, and decide within three months which pieces should be turned over to the task force.

Schneider urged the museum to rethink that time frame, saying research on the Salzburg collection is likely to take more time.