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Monday, July 15, 2019

Bavaria Proposes Law Change to Ease the Return of Nazi-Looted Art

Detail of Paul Gauguin's 'Women, Animals and Foliage (Leaves).' Detail of Paul Gauguin's 'Women, Animals and Foliage (Leaves).' www.lostart.de

After a trove of Nazi-looted masterpieces were found in a Munich apartment, the German state of Bavaria has drafted a national law that would ease the return of stolen art to its rightful owners. The new legislation would eliminate the statute of limitations applied to stolen property, which is typically 30 years. Some art collectors have used the law to hold onto artworks with troubled provenances. The draft will go before Germany’s upper house of parliament on February 14.

Back in November 2013, German authorities announced that they had found approximately 1,500 artworks worth around one billion euros in a dilapidated apartment belonging to Cornelius Gurlitt. Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrandt, had been put in charge of selling stolen artworks by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda. Gurlitt’s father secretly hoarded the works, which included paintings by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Marc Chagall, later claiming that they were destroyed in the bombing of Dresden. Throughout his life, Gurlitt, an unemployed recluse, sold a number of the paintings and lived off of the profits.

German authorities came under fire when it was revealed that they had known of Gurlitt’s stash since February 2012 but failed to make it public until the following year. They have since posted pictures of more than 400 of the works, inviting rightful owners to stake claims. 

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