Question and Answers
1. Is Cornelius Gurlitt still in possession of his rights or is he incompetent?
The Munich District Court has appointed Christoph Edel as Mr. Gurlitt’s temporary guardian. His activities are controlled by the wishes and well-being of Mr. Gurlitt.
The request for a guardian was not presented to the Munich District Court by lawyers but by doctors. A judge then issued an order for temporary guardianship.
The fact that temporary guardianship was ordered does not prevent Mr. Gurlitt from entering into valid legal transactions, for instance by signing contracts. A so-called reservation of consent (Einwilligungsvorbehalt), which would mean that effective declarations could only be made with the consent of the guardian, was not ordered and is not under discussion.
2. Where is Mr. Gurlitt now?
We are sorry, but to protect Mr. Gurlitt’s privacy we cannot comment on this question.
3. How is Mr. Gurlitt? Is he in full possession of his mental faculties?
We are sorry, but to protect Mr. Gurlitt’s privacy we cannot comment on his current condition.
Temporary guardianship was ordered. This does not prevent Mr. Gurlitt from entering into valid legal transactions, for instance by signing contracts. A so-called reservation of consent (Einwilligungsvorbehalt), which would mean that effective declarations could only be made with the consent of the guardian, was not ordered and is not under discussion. You can draw your own conclusions from this information.
4. Mr. Gurlitt made it clear in a video interview that he will not return any of the artworks, but in the meantime his lawyer has indicated that Mr. Gurlitt is willing do talk. Is that really Mr. Gurlitt’s intention or is it just a PR trick?
The impression created through reporting on this case to date that Mr. Gurlitt is not willing to talk or cooperate is completely inaccurate.
Mr. Gurlitt has explained several times to his guardian and family members that he is interested in finding amicable solutions with private claimants about contested artworks, even though the underlying legal situation would not require this.
5. How do you explain Mr. Gurlitt’s change in sentiment? What exactly led him to take a different position at this point?
There has not been any change in sentiment. Cornelius Gurlitt was already willing to talk in the past if someone had a justified claim. This was demonstrated by his participation in the sale of Max Beckmann’s Lion Tamer.
6. When will the public prosecutors return artworks to Mr. Gurlitt?
We do not want to speculate about that.
7. How will he handle the artworks? Where will they be stored?
We will deal with this issue if the situation concretely comes about.
8. When will there be a court proceeding?
We cannot and do not want to speculate about that. You can rest assured that the team of attorneys is working very hard to avoid litigation, regardless whether in a civil or criminal arena.
9. How many private individuals and how many museums have come forward with claims so far?
There are currently four claimants and a couple of people asking for information weather items lost in the time of the Third Reich are part of the Gurlitt Collection.
10. Are you already negotiating the return of works that can be considered Nazi-looted art? If yes, which artworks are affected?
We are currently conducting exploratory talks with claimants and are exchanging all the fundamental factual and legal positions. In this context, we would like to point out that we are not in fact legally obligated to do so since the statute of limitations has long since expired. We are currently mainly discussing the works by Matisse (Femme assise), Liebermann (Riders on the Beach), two works of Otto Dix (probably from the Littmann collection) and the collection of Dr. Glaser from Dresden.
11. When do you expect charges will be brought forward in the Gurlitt case?
At this time it is totally unclear whether any charges will be brought at all. We cannot and do not want to speculate about that.
12. Is the Gurlitt case so unusual or are there similar cases?
The Gurlitt case is by no means unique. Nazi plunder in German museums has long been known to be a problem. And there is definitely still a lot of looted art in private and public collections. Quantitatively speaking private and public collections may well contain considerably more instances of suspected looted art than in the case of Cornelius Gurlitt.
13. How many paintings to you think are clearly his property?
Just about all of them, with the exception of a few artworks that are suspected to be Holocaust Looted Art (3 % of the whole collection as a maximum)
14. How many of his paintings would you categorize as “degenerate art”?
About 380, of which 290 were definitely formerly part of public collections. This means that these 290 paintings were legally acquired by his father Dr. Hildebrand Gurlitt from Reich property through purchase and trade.
15. In your opinion, how many artworks belong to the category of Holocaust looted art (“Raubkunst”)?
There are very, very few suspected instances. Currently we have received only four (4) claims which might be dealing with Holocaust Looted Art.
16. In your experience, how difficult is it to prove bad faith in the purchase of such works of art?
The law names numerous assumptions of good faith for a purchaser that a claimant has to disprove. Since Cornelius Gurlitt assumed and had to assume that the collection predominantly came from former German Reich property that his father legally acquired, we are convinced that he acted in good faith
17. What rules are there for dealing with artworks of questionable provenance?
None of the rules are legally binding; they are declarations of conduct and intent and include the Washington principles of 1998 on dealing with Nazi-looted art and the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums.
18. Why won’t you publish Mr. Gurlitt’s business records? Then everything would be clear!
The business records are part of the public prosecutor’s file and are not intended for the public.
19. When were you last in contact with the task force about the Gurlitt case? What is your opinion of this task force?
Handling this complex topic requires discretion. Due to the pending status of this matter we prefer not to comment on this.
We do not think that a criminal case is the adequate platform to handle claims on art, weather looted in the Holocaust or legally acquired on good title. So we respectfully doubt the necessity of the so called Taskforce in this context. Our client is ready to take responsibility the way he did it already in the past without the “help” od the Taskforce.
20. Why was the task force established? The Limbach Commission already exists.
Please address this question to the German and Bavarian governments since they initiated the task force.
21. Do you see a need for legislation when you look at your experiences with the Gurlitt case?
We know this question is currently the subject of intense public debate, but we would prefer not to contribute to the discussion. We are focusing our full attention on Mr. Gurlitt and on protecting his private and personal interests.
22. Should the statute of limitations be extended in the future for cases like this?
If anything, this issue is one that lawmakers should deal with. We prefer not to comment in this regard.
23. Did the public prosecutor, as initiator of the proceedings, have the right to treat Mr. Gurlitt this way?
We prefer not to engage in a public discussion of this issue. We hope you will understand.
24. In your view should the approach of the public prosecutors be taken as an example to motivate other persons to take action?
We will not participate in such speculations.
25. Do you think Mr. Gurlitt will be criminally convicted?
At this time it is totally unclear whether any charges will be brought at all. We cannot and do not want to speculate about that.
26. What is the difference between temporary guardianship and permanent guardianship?
When a compelling need exists (such as a medical treatment that cannot be delayed) and there are urgent grounds for the assumption that conditions for guardianship exist, temporary guardianship can be ordered for a maximum of six months in an accelerated procedure.
27. Is the guardian (also) meant to take the interest of the public sector into consideration?
No. This would be a clear violation of the guardian’s duties. Within the framework of the law, the guardian is meant to exclusively protect the interests of Mr. Gurlit
28. What is the guardian’s scope of responsibilities?
His responsibilities encompass taking care of his ward’s property and health. Before ordering permanent guardianship, the court reviews again what type of responsibilities is necessary and also when circumstances become known that could call for a change
29. There have been several media reports about Mr. Gurlitt’s poor health – will there even be a court proceeding if he is in such a bad condition?
We do not consider it appropriate to speculate over the question whether and, if so, when there may be a civil or criminal proceeding. The same applies to the question whether in such a case Mr. Gurlitt is even fit to stand trial.
30. Why has the Salzburger Haus only now been entered and the artworks there been brought to safety? Has that been overlooked?
No. Entry into the Salzburg house required and still does a permission by Cornelius Gurlitt. The guardian of Cornelius Gurlitt acted quickly after he received that permission and ensured the safety and the insurance of the artworks located there.
31. Where are the Salzburg artworks now?
The Salzburg artworks were secured to safeguard against burglary or theft. Exactly for this reason we will not comment on the new location of these artworks. We hope you will understand.
32. In what state are the Salzburg artworks?
The artworks are in varying conditions. They are being taken care of professionally by experts.
33. Which artworks are these exactly?
This is a private collection. We currently do not provide details on specific works of art of the Salzburg part of the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt.
34. How do you deal with allegations that such secrecy is to the disadvantage of potential claimants for artworks suspected to be looted art?
Currently, we are digging deeper and will voluntarily seek bilateral contact with claimants, should the provenance research then indeed lead to a suspicion that this is a looted artwork.
35. Will the Salzburg artworks be made available on lostart.de?
36. Why have you waited this long to file an appeal against the seizure order issued by the Augsburg local court? Isn't it too late?
No, no deadlines have been missed. In drafting the appeal the defense team put thoroughness ahead of speed. It was particularly important to evaluate all the case files carefully.
37. Why isn't the appeal being posted on gurlitt.info online?
We have issued a press release (link) but do not intend to give any further public comment on the appeal. Despite the huge interest in this case, we want to make sure the proper procedures for criminal proceedings are followed. This includes not speaking publicly or to the media about an ongoing criminal case.
38. What will happen if the appeal is allowed?
This is described in detail in the recently reached agreement, which is the basis for the work of the Taskforce.
39. According to a press release of the Taskforce, since all artworks have now been released from police custody, the agreement between the Federal Government, the Free State of Bavaria and Cornelius Gurlitt has come into effect. What specifically does that mean?
This is in reference to a sentence in the agreement that Cornelius Gurlitt will voluntarily agree to do provenance research, provided his artworks are released from police custody. The taskforce, however, has been at work for several months already. The voluntary agreement will now provide a legal base for provenance research on his private collection, which in our view did not exist before. The agreement was formally approved by the care law.
40. How quickly will the artworks that are not under suspicion, be returned to Cornelius Gurlitt, now that they have been released from custody?
We are currently discussing this.
41. How many of the 1280 works of art in custody will be returned now?
We expect that this will be the vast majority, since we know of only a few cases in which a suspicion of looted art cannot be ruled out yet.
42. Does a timetable and a detailed plan exist already? In the agreement it states that Cornelius Gurlitt will receive the artworks within a reasonable timeframe.
Mr. Gurlitt will in close cooperation with the authorities, determining the details of the return of his collection, its safekeeping and a suitably secure location. After the very public presentation of his collection it is impossible to simply take them back. This has to be planned in detail and implemented apropriately to ensure the protection of these artworks.
43. What will Mr. Gurlitt do with these artworks? Now that they are released from custody it is high time to deal with this question.
Mr. Gurlitt is dealing with it. He will now in close cooperation with the authorities determine the details of the return of his collection, its safekeeping and a suitably secure location.
44. How tangible is the suggestion of the Free State of Bavaria to provide a suitable location for the collection and a public display?
We cannot answer that. We have not received such a proposal.
45. Is it even conceivable that Cornelius Gurlitt, after his experience with the Bavarian authorities, will even consider handing over his collection to the Bavarian Government?
We have no proposal of this nature. We currently have to deal with other, more important aspects.
46. What does it mean that the Taskforce has announced that it now can and will work in a more “transparent” fashion?
The agreement reached states in several instances that Mr. Gurlitt has specific rights for information.
47. The public prosecutor in Augsburg has released the artworks from police custody but not dropped the charges. Do you expect that the authorities will continue to pursue criminal charges against Mr. Gurlitt?
That remains to be seen. We cannot and do not want to speculate about that.
48. What happens if the Taskforce is not able to complete the research in all cases? Is it not possible that works of art may be returned un-researched to the detriment of claimants?
It was agreed upon that in such a case Cornelius Gurlitt will voluntarily continue to provide access to those works of art for research purposes. Cornelius Gurlitt has agreed that artworks for which a restitution claim exists, will remain in custody with the other parties in the agreement, namely the Federal Government and the Free State of Bavaria, until those claims have been resolved.
49. In the agreement it states that Cornelius Gurlitt can “at any time conclude a restitution agreement”. What does that mean?
If more claimants come forward, Mr. Gurlitt is free to reach a bilateral agreement in case such claims appear to be valid. This is quite possible particularly in cases where it is clear that there are no other claimants. The agreement also states explicitly that Mr. Gurlitt can complete the restitution of a work of art to a claimant even before the provenance research is finished, as long as such research only is to verify whether the artwork falls under “looted art”.
50. Is it known which three scientists Cornelius Gurlitt will put forward to possibly join the Taskforce?
If, and possibly when and how Mr. Gurlitt will make use of his right to propose a member for the Taskforce has not yet been decided upon.
51. What does clause 8 in the agreement mean? (“Disputes resulting from the safekeeping agreement will be brought to ordinary courts”)
In the case that there are disagreements on the implementation of the safekeeping agreement, the parties agree that it is not the administrative courts that have jurisdiction.