A quiet man in a tiny apartment in Munich had a $1 billion art secret. And, until recently, no one had a clue.
Cornelius Gurlitt was traveling by train when Bavarian customs officers stopped him. They found he was traveling with large amounts of cash. How did this eccentric man, who had neither family nor job, get that kind of money? Surely there was something seedy happening, and probably tax evasion to boot. An investigation was begun.
When police carried out the search warrant for his apartment, they were in for a surprise of a lifetime. Tucked neatly on his shelves were over 1,400 pieces of lost art worth an estimated $1.35 billion.
When art historians began to sift through the pieces, Mr. Gurlitt’s secret started to unravel.
It appeared that they were pieces that had been confiscated by the German Nazis. Mr. Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand, who was deemed Jewish by the Nazis, lost his job running a museum but landed on his feet as one of the few dealers who were allowed to sell confiscated art. It appears that he did not sell all of the pieces, but set aside many for himself.
The younger Gurlitt held on to the art, only occasionally selling one when bills needed to be paid.
Lawyers are now bus trying to find original owners of the works, though it will probably take years to do so. Hopefully soon families will begin to recover some of the lost art that is rightfully theirs.
Visit Rotblatt-Amrany’s Studio Gallery to see great works of original art seen nowhere else.
Image courtesy of Paris Match.