Swiss Museum to Announce Decision on Nazi-Looted Art Next Week

A museum in the Swiss capital will announce next week its decision on the controversial Nazi-looted art collection of the late Cornelius Gurlitt.

Gurlitt, who for decades kept a secret trove of masterpieces before agreeing to return works that once belonged to Jews under the Nazi regime, died in May and left his collection to Kunstmuseum Bern.

The museum, which has yet to decide whether it will accept the collection, will hold a joint press briefing on Nov. 24 in Berlin with German State Secretary for Art Monika Gruetters and Bavarian Justice Minister Winfried Bausback, it said in a statement today. The president of the board of trustees, Christoph Schaeublin, will represent the museum at the event.

The chance discovery of more than 1,400 modernist works in a 2012 raid by tax authorities at Gurlitt’s apartment in Munich unearthed paintings, sketches and prints long given up as lost or destroyed under Adolf Hitler’s rule.

Gurlitt inherited the collection with an estimated value of more than 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion), including works by Pablo Picasso, Henry Matisse and Paul Gauguin, from his father Hildebrand, one of four dealers authorized by the Nazis to sell confiscated art abroad.

In February, an additional 60 pieces were found in Gurlitt’s house in Salzburg, Austria. The reclusive art owner lived alone and struggled to grasp the media scrutiny after Germany’s Focus magazine published a November 2013 article exposing the trove.

Kunstmuseum Bern is the oldest art museum in Switzerland with a permanent collection and houses works covering eight centuries, according to its website.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that the museum was near accepting the collection, citing three unidentified people familiar with the board’s discussions.

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