Art Law: Agreement in Place on Gurlitt Art Find

It has been a week of massive movement in the Gurlitt case: On Monday, Gurlitt himself, Gurlitt’s guardian (Betreuer), Bavaria and the Federal Republic announced that they have come to an agreement. Gurlitt agrees for provenance research of his collection to continue. On a voluntary basis, he will accept the findings of the provenance research and restitute art work in accordance with the Washington Principles.

For all practical purposes, this would mean that the thorny issue of the limitation period is of no further practical relevance. Without having seen the underlying agreement in full, I would read the statements contained in the press release as a waiver of the limitation defence by Gurlitt. The provenance research by the Task Force will continue, and any unproblematic works of art will be restituted to Gurlitt immediately.

The press release expressly said that the agreement made no provisions regarding the current criminal proceedings. However, today, the Augsburg Public Prosecution (Staatsanwaltschaft) published its decision to release the collection that it had seized. Under the terms of the agreement with the state authorities, the part of the collection to be researched remains in safe custody.

Thus, much will depend on how the Task Force performs it job. In this respect, Süddeutsche Zeitung came up with a rather depressing assessment of what the Task Force has done so far and how it lacks in its communication with claimants.

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