Lonely Planet Writer

Controversial Nazi-era art collection to go on show in Bern and Bonn later this year

At the end of this year, the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany will be displaying a trove of very unique art. This art was confiscated by the Nazis, then ended up in the hands of a private collector, and was only rediscovered in 2012. The rightful owners of the artwork have not yet been found.

Paintings by Monet, Beckmann and Boucher were discovered .
Paintings by Monet, Beckmann and Boucher were discovered . Image by Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn

The exhibition is one half of a collaboration known as Dossier Gurlitt. The other half will be on display in Bern, Switzerland and focuses on the ‘degenerate’ art confiscated by the Nazis during the war. This artwork was confiscated from Jews and will open on the 2 November, 2017 in the Kunstmuseum, Bern.

The art from both exhibitions comes from one person, Cornelius Gurlitt. He was the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt who was a German art dealer who amassed over 1400 works of art during the war. Many people believe that a lot of this artwork was plundered by the Nazis, but in the end Hildebrand got to keep it all. When he died in 1956 he passed the artwork on to Cornelius. Cornelius was notoriously reclusive and the artwork was only rediscovered in Germany in 2012 when German police searched his apartment during a tax investigation. The estimated value of the artwork was over €1 billion. He struck a deal with the German government to return the artwork to its rightful owners but many famous works of art and sculptures were still on display in his apartment when he passed away.

This image shows what Gurlitts' apartment looked like. It was filled with paintings and sculptures.
This is a picture from Gurlitts’ apartment. There is a Monet & Picasso visible in the background. Image by Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn

This is where it gets interesting. For some reason Cornelius left the entire wealth of his fortune to the Museum of Fine Art in Bern, Switzerland. The stipulation is that the museum must research the ownership behind the works of art and do their utmost to figure out who the rightful owners are. Some of the artwork has been returned, but for much of it, with the passage of time, it’s almost impossible to determine where it came from.

This shows a sculpture of a person crouching.
‘Crouching’: A sculpture by Auguste Rodin, the father of modern sculpture. Image by Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn

This exhibition, called “Dossier Gurlitt. Nazi art theft and its consequences” will focus on that lost art; featuring some very famous artists and sculptures from Gurlitts’ extensive collection. It will run from 3 November 2017 to 11 March, 2018.

For more information click here.