Two Works Found With Gurlitt Cleared for Immediate Restitution, Hundreds More Still in Limbo

Art Law Report 13 May 2015
By Nicholas O'Donnell

After months of start/stop and hurry up and wait, the Munich court with jurisdiction over the Gurlitt collection has cleared two paintings for restitution to the heirs of their original owners.  David Toren and the Rosenberg family will receive Two Riders on the Beach (Ritter am Strand) by Max Liebermann and Seated Woman by Henri Matisse, respectively.  This will also result in the resolution of the only lawsuit to date filed over the Gurlitt case (pending in Washington, DC).  Toren and the Rosenbergs are to be congratulated for their perseverance, as should their representatives (again, respectively) August Mattheis and Christopher Marinello—particularly after some eleventh-hour victim-blaming.

Lest anyone be tempted to rest on their laurels, however, there is still much to be done.  There are two other works that have been publicly identified as Nazi-looted art by the Gurlitt Task Force.  There is no reason that their immediate restitution should not follow.  And, of course, even these four together are a drop in the bucket of the more than 900 works still being evaluated.  There has been, literally, no update whatsoever about what the status of that examination (which Germany and Bavaria agreed to complete within a year of April, 2014, or nearly two months ago).  Progress is long overdue.  The German Cultural Property Center (Zentrum Deutsches Kulturgutverluste) has been technically open for five months, but its visible output is hard to discern–and is available only in German.  The still-pending will contest should not be an obstacle, either.  There is still much work to be done.
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