Monuments Men, Hidden Treasures, and the Restitution of Looted Art
New York State Bar Association, Entertainment, Arts & Sports Law Journal, 2014
7 Pages Posted: 8 May 2014 Last revised: 22 Nov 2014
Date Written: January 1, 2014
The 2012 discovery of a hidden art trove is the stuff that movies are made of. In fact, similar stories have been featured in films. The announcement of Cornelius Gurlitt’s art cache involves a familiar cast of players: Hitler, Goebbels, Nazi commanders, Allied forces, political figures, and even the Monuments Men (a group featured in George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men”). On November 3, 2013, in what some called “one of the largest and most significant discoveries of masterpieces plundered by the Nazis,” a major piece of news was announced: “A Modernist art haul, looted by Nazis recovered by Germany police.”
The “Gurlitt Collection” is shrouded in mystery, as the origins of the majority of the approximately 1400 works are murky, thus prompting a large-scale investigation. What is clear is the following: the artwork, believed to be worth more than $US 1.35 billion, was seized from Cornelius Gurlitt in early 2012. Gurlitt first attracted the attention of police in 2010 after a random cash check during a train trip between Switzerland and Munich. These suspicions led to a raid on Gurlitt’s flat in the spring of 2011. During that raid, police were confronted with a massive art collection.
This article examines legal issues related to the Munich Art Trove.
Keywords: Nazi, Hitler, looted art, Gurlitt, degenerate art, cultural heritage, restitution, art law, Monuments Men, Muninch Art Trove, statute of limitations, art theft, cultural heritage
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