'Degenerate art' should go back to museums: German advisor

20th November 2014, Comments 0 comments

The head of a German art restitution panel called Thursday for avant-garde artworks deemed "degenerate" by the Nazis to be handed back to the museums from which they were seized.

Former Constitutional Court presiding judge, Jutta Limbach, said it would be "a good solution" if today's owners of the works handed them back to the museums and collections they were confiscated from after 1937.

Art by painters such as Germany's Otto Dix were labelled by Hitler as "degenerate" for violating the ideals of the Third Reich.

The issue of so-called degenerate art has recently re-gained prominence in the wake of revelations late last year of a spectacular discovery in southern Germany of art believed looted by the Nazis.

In an interview with the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, Limbach, the chairwoman of a government-backed advisory board set up to resolve ownership disputes, was asked if "degenerate art" should be returned to the museum that had owned it 77 years ago.

"That would be a good solution, to give it back to the museums from which it was confiscated in the Nazi period," she replied.

This should apply to state collections, she added, but said that "private people" currently in possession of "degenerate" art works could not be included "just like that".

The 1938 law adopted by the Nazis covering so-called degenerate art has never been overturned, the daily noted.

Hundreds of artworks, many believed to have been stolen or extorted from Jews by the Nazis, or seized under the Third Reich law banning "degenerate art", were found by chance in the Munich flat of the late Cornelius Gurlitt.

Gurlitt, who died in May, was the son of Nazi-era art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, who acquired the paintings in the 1930s and 1940s and had been tasked by the Nazis with selling stolen and confiscated works.

He has left the collection to Switzerland's Museum of Fine Arts in Bern which is expected to announce next week whether it will accept the works.

The Nazis mounted an infamous exhibition of "Entartete Kunst" (degenerate art) in 1937 in which hundreds of modernist pieces were chaotically hung or accompanied by texts deriding them.

It included works by Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee among others.

© 2014 AFP

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