The story of the Gurlitt estate continues. As you may remember, Cornelius Gurlitt was a German who had over 1200 paintings in his possession, including Picassos, Rembrandts and many other masters. The paintings are believed to have come from the estate of his father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, who was an art dealer in Germany during the Nazi era. Therefore, the provenance of the entire collection is suspect. Four paintings have already been returned to the descendants of those from whom they were looted. Gurlitt’s will, revealed after his death, was even more surprising. He left the entire collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern–a museum with which he had no ties, while at the same time disinheriting his relatives.
The will was contested by his cousin, who claimed that Gurlitt did not have the requisite competency to create the will. Initially, his cousin lost her lawsuit, but she has appealed, and now the court has ordered an expert psychological opinion as to whether Gurlitt was competent when he created the will creating the bequest to the Kunstmuseum Bern. There appears to be evidence that Gurlitt was suffering from paranoid delusions, including the belief that he was being hunted by Nazis. During the first trial, the family hired noted German psychiatrist Helmut Hausner to submit an expert opinion on Gurlitt’s competency. He conclusion was that Gurlitt picked the Kunstmuseum Bern as his heir in order to get the collection out of Germany, into Switzerland, and out of the hands of the Nazis he thought were after him. Of course the glaring problem is Gurlitt is no longer alive, so any expert opinion is going to rest on the testimony of third parties. And we all know experts can disagree.
In the meantime, heirs who have hopes that a family painting is amongst the collection continue to age. The work on establishing the provenance of each work is stalling, and everyone is left in limbo.