By no means am I an art expert or have some extensive collection, but I do have an appreciation for fine art and also had many relatives fight in World War II. Some say the art that was recently found in Munich was priceless. That might be a fair assessment of it.
I was always shocked at the looting of Europe of all the art treasures and then the lack of finding so many of them. It was an intriguing story to hear how they took both modern and centuries-old art and antiquities back to Germany as spoils of war and empire building. Art from Beckmann, Chagall, Klee, Matisse,and others all went missing for decades. Now, some have been found in Munich.
According to Forbes and other news media, 1,500 paintings that were confiscated (let’s be politically accurate – stolen) by the Nazis and written off after the war as “lost in a bombing” were found in Munich in 2011, but was only publicized recently because they are concerned about all the restitution issues that will have to be addressed.
The person who had the paintings was the son of the Nazi art dealer, Hildebrandt Gurlitt, who acted as a fence to sell art for the Commission for the Exploitation of Degenerate Art, a Nazi agency focused on getting rid of art on the international market to raise funds for the Third Reich. It is said that Hildebrandt Gurlitt took his instruction from both Goebbels as well as Herman Goering. After the war, when he was interrogated by the US Army, he claimed all the paintings were lost in a bombing in Dresden. It was all a big lie.
Some articles stated that whenever Cornelius, his son, needed some extra money, he would sell off a painting.
They had a warrant out for him evading taxes and that’s how they got access to his house. They unexpectedly found all the works of art in the house in 2011. There are currently over 200 warrants for the return of some of the paintings.
Should the charges against Cornelius Gurlitt be augmented to include War Criminal? He sat on these stolen paintings for decades. He could have returned the paintings to their rightful owners before they all died off. Did he really think he owned them? By him sitting on the works of art for years and profiting from them when he needed cash, I think he needs some other serious charges filed against him.
WHO OWNS WHAT? WHO OWES WHAT?
The Forbes article asks the question about taxes and will there be taxes levied on some of the paintings? (http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2013/11/03/found-nazi-art-valued-at-1b-is-worth-how-much-after-tax/?utm_source=alertscalledoutcomment&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20131104 )
Taxes? The first thing they have to do is figure out who the rightful owners are. (If any survivors are even left.) Should the art go back on display, if they cannot find the rightful owners? A shared, traveling exhibit to all the museums in both Europe and the United States would be a fitting tribute to those who fought in World War II.
What about all the families who lost people in World War II? Not just families who owned the art, but also those who died in combat trying to liberate these countries? Seems like there is a lot more to think about as far as who should be owed something than just who owes taxes.
All those who fought in World War II helped liberate those paintings and saved them from destruction. Their descendants should be entitled to see what they fought and died for just as much as those who lay claim to them.
CARLINI-ISM: Art is priceless? So is life.
Copyright 2013 – James Carlini