Museum heir of Gurlitt collection
A museum in Switzerland has been named the "unrestricted and unfettered sole heir" of a German art collector whose hoard of 1,280 major artworks set off an uproar last year over the fate of art looted by the Nazis.
The Kunstmuseum Bern, in the Swiss capital Berne, said it was "surprised and delighted" at the appointment, of which it was informed by Cornelius Gurlitt's lawyer, Christoph Edel.
"At the same time, we do not wish to conceal the fact that this magnificent bequest brings with it a considerable burden of responsibility and a wealth of questions of the most difficult and sensitive kind, and questions in particular of a legal and ethical nature," it said in a statement.
The museum said that the news "came like a bolt from the blue" as it had never previously had any dealings with Mr Gurlitt, who died yesterday aged 81.
Mr Gurlitt's spokesman Stephan Holzinger said his client summoned a notary early this year before he underwent heart surgery, with his court-appointed guardian also present, but that it was up to the Munich court to determine whether there is a valid will.
German investigators seized more than 1,000 artworks from Mr Gurlitt's apartment two years ago after chancing upon the trove of paintings, print and drawings by masters such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall.
Authorities are in the process of checking whether any of the paintings were looted by the Nazis, for whom Mr Gurlitt's father worked as an art dealer. The Bavarian Justice Ministry said yesterday that a deal struck with Mr Gurlitt before his death would be binding on all possible heirs.