Gurlitt Seen by Journalists in Munich, Paris Match Says

Photographer: Lennart Preiss/Getty Images

A newspaper billboard announcing "Billion Euro Art Treasure Discovered In Schwabing (a section of Munich)" in front of the apartment building that is residence of Cornelius Gurlitt, where according to media reports customs agents seized more than 1,400 paintings that had been confiscated by the Nazis in the 1930s and 40s, on November 4, 2013 in Munich, Germany. Gurlitt's father Hildebrand Gurlitt was an art dealer who oversaw the confiscations of what the Nazis termed "degenerate art", and the son, now in his 80s, reportedly hoarded the works, which include paintings by Henri Matisse, Emil Nolde and Max Liebermann. The works are now at a customs warehouse outside Munich and have an estimated value of EUR one billion. Close

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Photographer: Lennart Preiss/Getty Images

A newspaper billboard announcing "Billion Euro Art Treasure Discovered In Schwabing (a section of Munich)" in front of the apartment building that is residence of Cornelius Gurlitt, where according to media reports customs agents seized more than 1,400 paintings that had been confiscated by the Nazis in the 1930s and 40s, on November 4, 2013 in Munich, Germany. Gurlitt's father Hildebrand Gurlitt was an art dealer who oversaw the confiscations of what the Nazis termed "degenerate art", and the son, now in his 80s, reportedly hoarded the works, which include paintings by Henri Matisse, Emil Nolde and Max Liebermann. The works are now at a customs warehouse outside Munich and have an estimated value of EUR one billion.

Two journalists from French magazine Paris Match said they saw Cornelius Gurlitt, the German who had kept a stash of 1,400 pieces of art in his apartment, the magazine reported on its website.

Paris Match published a photograph of an elderly man it identified as Gurlitt, with white hair and blue eyes, pushing a shopping cart and wearing a heavy gray woolen coat. The journalists said they had watched Gurlitt leave his Munich apartment where he had kept more than 1,400 paintings, lithographs, drawings and prints that were seized by authorities investigating him on suspicion of tax evasion in March 2012.

German magazine Spiegel also reported that Gurlitt sent the magazine a letter, asking to refrain from mentioning the name Gurlitt in articles. Prosecutors said at a news conference on Nov. 5 that they didn’t know where Gurlitt was.

The cache of art includes works by Max Beckmann, Pablo Picasso, Oskar Kokoschka, Franz Marc, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Max Liebermann, prosecutors said.

Police collected 22 paintings from Cornelius Gurlitt’s brother in law yesterday, Bild am Sonntag reported. Two policemen took the paintings from the apartment of Nikolaus Fraessle in Kornwestheim near Stuttgart, Germany. Fraessle had contacted the police and asked them to collect the paintings, that he said have a relation with the pieces of art found in Gurlitt’s apartment, Bild am Sonntag said.

Munich Apartment

Cornelius Gurlitt kept the works in a Munich apartment handed down by his father, according to Focus magazine which first reported the story. Gurlitt was held by officials investigating possible money laundering during a random check on a train from Switzerland to Munich on Sept. 22, 2010. That investigation led to his home on Feb. 28, 2012.

Bild am Sonntag published a list of 200 paintings on its website, saying Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius’s father, bought them for a total of 4,000 Swiss francs, according to a contract dated May 22, 1940, of which the paper said it published an excerpt on its website. The list includes artists such as Emil Nolde, Otto Dix, August Macke, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff.

According to an internal report of the German Finance Ministry, there are copies of those contracts over the works that Gurlitt bought, Bild am Sonntag reported. Martin Kotthaus, a ministry spokesman, declined to comment.

Swiss Report

Hildebrand Gurlitt was given two paintings -- one by Marc Chagall and one by Picasso -- by Swiss painter Karl Ballmer as a present, the Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Sonntag reported today on its website, citing documents dating from 1950 in the National Archive in Washington.

Ballmer said in the documents that he gave the two paintings to Gurlitt in 1943, during a visit in Switzerland. It is unclear if the works were given to Gurlitt in Switzerland, the paper reported.

Switzerland was a hub for art looted by the Nazis, Schweiz am Sonntag reported. Some 43 Swiss museums have artworks whose origin is only partially understood, according to the nation’s Federal Office for Culture.

U.S. troops in 1950 compiled a list of works looted by the Nazis that wound up in Gurlitt’s apartment, researchers from the Holocaust Art Restitution Project said. The documents were obtained by Bloomberg from the researchers on Nov. 5. The troops confiscated and examined Gurlitt’s collection, and gave it back to him in the same year.

Some 23 of the paintings seized were on show in the U.S. in 1956 in New York and San Francisco, German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported today. The German government paid for the show, called “A Mid-Century Review,” the newspaper said.

The Nazis seized more than 20,000 modern artworks that they saw as “degenerate,” or contrary to Aryan ideals, from German museums. They also stole hundreds of thousands of artworks from Jewish families.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Julia Mengewein in Frankfurt at jmengewein@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lars Paulsson at lpaulsson@bloomberg.net; Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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