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Swiss museum says it was named 'sole heir' to deceased German collector Gurlitt's trove of art

  • Germany-Obit-Gurlitt-1

    FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2013 file photo cars are parked outside the apartment building in Munich, Germany, where more than 1,400 artworks were found in the apartment of collector Cornelius Gurlitt. Gurlitt, a reclusive German collector whose long-secret hoard of well over 1,000 artworks triggered an international uproar over the fate of art looted by the Nazis, died Tuesday, May 6, 2014. He was 81. (AP Photo/dpa, Marc Mueller, File)

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Germany-Gurlitt

    Police officers stand in front of a house where art collector Cornelius Gurlitt lived, in Munich, Germany, Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Gurlitt, a reclusive German collector whose long-secret hoard of well over 1,000 artworks triggered an international uproar over the fate of art looted by the Nazis, died Tuesday. He was 81.Photo (AP Photo/dpa, Sven Hoppe)

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

BERLIN  — A museum in Switzerland said today that it 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, 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.

RELATED ARTICLE: Reclusive art collector, owner of massive trove, dies at 81

The museum said that the news “came like a bolt from the blue” as it had never previously had any dealings with Gurlitt, who died age 81 on Tuesday.

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.

The return of the released pictures to Gurlitt hadn’t started at the time of his death, Holzinger said.

German investigators seized more than 1,000 artworks from 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 Gurlitt’s father worked as an art dealer. The Bavarian Justice Ministry said Tuesday that a deal struck with Gurlitt before his death would be binding on all possible heirs.

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