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More dubious art found in the German parliament buildings

Considerable commotion occurred last month when an elderly man named Cornelius Gurlitt was drawn into the spotlight of the art world and much of the non-art world too. That died down but is back again with another ‘discovery’ of more dubiously acquired art works in the Parliament of Germany.

The uproar began when a huge collection of art works was discovered in Gurlitt’s apartments in Munich. The collection of over 1,400 pieces had been acquired by his father, an art dealer who was under orders from Hitler to confiscate ‘degenerate’ works owned by Jews and other enemies of the Reich and sell them to raise money for Hitler’s purposes.

According to reports, his son had kept the balance of that collection believing it was his inheritance; Cornelius still feels that way after the ‘trove’ of art treasures was confiscated by German authorities. In the last week of December an art historian uncovered two more works of art, one that is believed to be part of the Gurlitt collection, in the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament building.

Various reports from different agencies including Project HEART, which is a recovery and restoration initiative of the Israel government, have criticised the German government for not disclosing their discovery of the Gurlitt collection; it was finally made public in an expo by the German focus magazine Bild nearly two years after authorities found the huge collection.

The main issue seems to be the true provenance of the art works, both in the Gurlitt collection and in the Parliament’s collection of around 4,000 pieces. Massive amounts of valuable art was plundered by the Nazis, taken from museums and private collections, and over the decades following WW11 some of the works have been identified and returned to rightful owners or their heirs.

However, much of that stolen art has never been accounted for, and investigations are ongoing both in Germany and around the world. The appearance of more allegedly stolen art in the Parliament’s collection has sparked off a noisy controversy in the art world with demands for investigation into the provenance of art worth many hundreds of millions on the open market.

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