Home | Industry | Nazi Stolen Art Still Not Returned
Industry

Nazi Stolen Art Still Not Returned

Art law of stolen Nazi Degenerate art

In November, I wrote an article about a treasure trove of 1408 artistic works stolen by the Nazis during World War II. Unfortunately, while at the time, it seemed that much of this art would returned to their owners, not much has happened, although some new developments may see that change.

The art was discovered in the apartment of 80-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, one of four art dealers allowed to sell artistic works under the Nazi regime. Several hundred works are confirmed as being legitimately owned by Gurlitt but over 590 still have questionable provenance. (They are being professionally photographed, scanned and posted to the German government site www.lostart.de).

Cornelius Gurlitt has said that he will not give back any of the 1408 works discovered in his apartment without a fight.

Provenance is a major hurdle to restitution in this case, and with all stolen Nazi art.  Until proven otherwise, the works remain the property of Gurlitt and proving that the work was owned by another person in the 1940’s is challenging.  First, many of the critical documents were destroyed during the War. For the several hundred thousand holocaust survivors and other refugees that were unable to return to their homes or even their home countries at the end of the War, there was no way to carry records of their art ownership with them as they made their way to new lives in Palestine or the United States. A grandmother remembering a Picasso on their wall or  a daughter remembering that her mother had told her they owned a Chagall does not rise to the level of proof necessary to have art returned.

Laws in general tend to favor current ownership and despite international agreement on restitution of stolen Nazi art, local laws may hamper those efforts. In Germany, where the Gurlitt works were discovered, the statute of limitations for claiming a stolen work is only 30 years.  Under current law, Gurlitt may not be required to return many of the works despite a showing of ownership, which has put Germany in an uncomfortable position.

But there is some light at the end of the tunnel, at least for the Gurlitt pieces.  Pressure from several countries including the United States and Israel has pushed the German government into creating an international task force, to look into resolving the stumbling blocks to restitution in the Gurlitt case and others. The task force will consist of 10 experts in art restitution, provenance research as well as the history of Germany’s Nazi era and the value of art.

Also, the Gurlitt case has prompted the German state of Bavaria to introduce a new bill, which will come to the floor for debate in early February, which will lift the Statute of Limitations in cases where ”the current holder of the work acted in bad faith, knowing exactly the origin of the item or having clear evidence for it at the time he acquired it,” according to the Bavaria Minister of Justice.

Gurlitt may fit into that category so should the law pass; the odds that these works will be returned to their original owners will improve dramatically. We’ll let you know what happens.

 If you liked this article, please post it to your social media or online groups.  All you need to do is click the share buttons below.  We would really appreciate it. 

For an in depth discussion on Gurlitt and his Nazi Stolen artwork, see this 6-minute video from DW.de

About the author

Steve Schlackman

As a photographer and Patent Attorney with a background in marketing, Steve has a unique perspective on art and law. Should you have any questions on Intellectual Property contact him at [email protected] His photography can be seen online at Fotofilosophy.com or on display at the Emmanuel Fremin Gallery in New York City.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

{{Privy:Embed campaign=133844}}

The Latest From Artrepreneur

  • A Guide to Eliminating Artist Debt and Sticking to a Budget

    The average working artist faces student loans and other debt. We ask several financial experts how they coach artists through managing artist debt while budgeting for their creative business.The post A Guide to Eliminating Artist Debt and Sticking […]

  • This CERF+ Workshop Will Teach Artists to Manage Risk

    This week, CERF+ will host a workshop for Gatlinburg artists. "Ready and Resilient" will cover topics in disaster preparedness along with a host of others focused around managing an art business.The post This CERF+ Workshop Will Teach Artists to […]

  • Jeffrey Deitch Reveals His Secrets to Sell Art

    [email protected] and Orangenius present an interview with Jeffrey Deitch, a pervasive figure in the world of contemporary art. Listen to the full podcast here.The post Jeffrey Deitch Reveals His Secrets to Sell Art appeared first on […]

  • How to Attract the Right Artist Opportunities

    While being selected for the right artist opportunities can feel like a murky process, there are straightforward ways to move forward with advancing your career with help from your artist network.The post How to Attract the Right Artist […]

  • 10 Interview Questions Artists Must Be Able to Answer

    If you've secured that important sit-down with a potential collector, arts journalist, or gallerist, be prepared to answer these common artist interview questions during your initial meeting.The post 10 Interview Questions Artists Must Be Able to […]

  • Secured a Studio Visit? Here’s How to Keep Your Visitor Hooked

    Artists often underestimate the importance of follow-up after an artist studio visit. Here's how to wow curators, art critics, and collectors that made the time to visit your space.The post Secured a Studio Visit? Here’s How to Keep Your […]

  • Artists are Partnering with Independent Designers, Retail Brands

    Artists and graphic designers are breaking into fashion graphic design by collaborating with independent designers and fast fashion brands. We talk to two designers on these increasingly prevalent partnerships.The post Artists are Partnering with […]

  • How An Estate Tax Repeal Might Affect the Art World

    A GOP repeal of the estate tax could produce a chilling effect on art museum donations while creating a bump in the art market. Here's why private art collectors may be less inclined to donate art.The post How An Estate Tax Repeal Might Affect the […]

  • 3 Common Pitfalls to Avoid in a Photography Contract

    A photography contract that doesn't consider art licensing rights and work made for hire agreements can have a significant impact on a photographer's business. Here are the common pitfalls photographers need to avoid.The post 3 Common Pitfalls to […]

  • These Creative Apps Can Help You Find Inspiration

    Last week we tackled 8 essential creative apps to simplify your creative business. Here, we’ll be diving into the best mobile apps to keep you constantly inspired.The post These Creative Apps Can Help You Find Inspiration appeared first on […]