BERLIN — German authorities have bowed to international pressure and are publishing a partial list of artworks found in a Munich apartment.
They are also assembling a “task force” of experts to speed up provenance research. Heading the team will be German attorney Ingeborg Berggreen-Merkel, former Assistant Secretary to the Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media.
The spectacular art find – including works by Chagall, Picasso, Matisse and Beckmann – was publicized by the Munich-based Focus magazine earlier this month.
Customs investigators seized the paintings, sketches and sculptures, dating from the 16th century to the modern period, last year but stayed silent until now because they had chanced upon the art during a tax evasion probe, which compels secrecy.
The secrecy and the failure so far to publish a complete list of the works has attracted criticism from those who argue that publicizing such finds is crucial to establishing their ownership and returning them to their rightful owners.
Out of a total of more than 1,400 works, an initial list of 25 with photos went online Monday and the website was promptly overwhelmed with hits. The list may help those who are trying to reunite long-lost art with their rightful heirs.
“There were so many hits that the site was overwhelmed,” a staff member of the German Federal Coordination Center for Lost Art, based in Magdeburg, told JTA. She said works would be added to the list gradually. Inquiries from potential heirs or their representatives should be sent to the office of the State Prosecutor in Augsburg at firstname.lastname@example.org
A statement on the Lost Art website explained that about 970 of the works found in the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt – son of the Nazi-era collector Hildebrand Gurlitt – may fall into the category of art deemed by the Nazis to be “degenerate,” or works stolen during the Nazi era. Of these, 380 have been identified as works that the Nazis confiscated during their “Action Against Degenerate Art” campaign in 1937.
Researchers are currently investigating the background of the remaining works, the center said in its statement.