Art Law: German “Centre for Lost Cultural Objects” To Be Established

Thanks to the Gurlitt saga, which we have covered extensively here, lost art and how to deal with it all of a sudden became a hotly debated subject, and triggered frantic activities on various levels. For example, Bavaria came forward with a legislative proposal that attempted to address the issue of the statute of limitation for restitution claims. And the matter brought about other change as well.

When Cornelius Gurlitt first entered into the trilateral agreement with the Federal Republic and Bavaria, and then shortly thereafter passed away, the urgency of the matter waned. Bavaria’s draft bill has not made any significant progress over the last couple of months. The next “big thing” in the Gurlitt saga will be the decision of the Kunstmuseum Bern, expected for the end of November 2014, on whether its accepts the Gurlitt heritage. Other than that, things have been rather quiet. Still, behind the scenes, other activities were going on.

On Friday last week, the German Federal Government announced the establishment of a German Centre for Lost Cultural Objects (Deutsche Zentrum Kulturgutverluste). The Centre will be a foundation financed up by the Federal Government and the federal states. The Deutsche Zentrum Kulturgutverluste will be based in Magdeburg, where the Lost Art database is already based. Existing initiatives such as the Arbeitsstelle für Provenienzforschung und Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg shall be merged into the new Centre.

The focus of the Centre will be on provenance research, and on making resources available to those who need them. The Federal Government will initially provide EUR 4,000,000. As of 2015, a budget of EUR 6,000,000 shall be available to fund provenance research. Whether that Money will benefit the heirs of victims remains to be seen – Stefan Koldehoff, writing in last week’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, was rather sceptical.

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