The German collector who kept a priceless trove of art, possibly including works stolen by the Nazis, hidden for half a century says he did so because he “loved” them and he wants them back.
Recluse Cornelius Gurlitt told German magazine Der Spiegel he wanted to protect the collection built up by his late father Hildebrand, an art dealer commissioned by the Nazis to sell works that Adolf Hitler’s regime wanted to get rid of.
Bavarian authorities say they suspect the elder Gurlitt may have acquired pictures taken from Jews by the Nazis — and that this may lead to restitution claims by the original owners or their heirs.
In his first extensive interview since the case was revealed two weeks ago, Gurlitt told Der Spiegel that everybody needs something to love. “And I loved nothing more in life than my pictures,” he said.
The death of his parents and sister were less painful to him than the loss of the 1,406 paintings, prints, and drawings by artists such as Picasso and Matisse that authorities hauled out of his apartment last year.
Officials are investigating whether Gurlitt may have “misappropriated” the art works or committed tax offences in connection with them.
However, a spokesman for Augsburg prosecutors, who are handling the case, said Germany’s 30-year statute of limitations may prove to be a stumbling block.
Gurlitt told Der Spiegel he won’t just hand over the art: “I won’t talk to them, and I’m not giving anything back voluntarily, no, no.”
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