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Crime & Litigation



Gurlitt relative files lawsuit over Nazi-era art hoard

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Written by AFP wire service   
Friday, 21 November 2014 13:44
A self-portrait by Otto Dix was apparently passed on by Hildebrand Gurlitt to his son Connelius. Fair use rationale: This copyrighted image of a historically significant artwork is being used for informational and educational purposes. Image courtesy of Wikipaintings.org. BERLIN (AFP) – A relative of late German art collector Cornelius Gurlitt lodged a claim Friday for his inheritance, a Nazi-era art hoard which he has bequested to a Swiss museum, a spokesman said.

The surprise move came just days before the Museum of Fine Arts in Bern is expected to reveal whether it accepts the inheritance of the spectacular trove of more than 1,000 pieces amassed during the Nazi era.

Uta Werner, 86, a cousin, appealed to a court in Munich to be recognized as Gurlitt's heir, with the backing of her children and some other family members, the spokesman said in a statement.

A report by a psychiatrist that "seriously questioned" Gurlitt's mental fitness to make a will had prompted the family to now act, it said.

Gurlitt, who died in May aged 81, had hoarded more than 1,000 paintings, drawings and sketches, including masterpieces by the likes of Picasso and Chagall, in his Munich flat for decades.

Hundreds more works were unearthed at his Salzburg home.

He was the son of Nazi-era art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, who was tasked with selling works taken or bought under duress from Jewish families, and avant-garde art seized from German museums that the Hitler regime deemed "degenerate."

Before he died, Cornelius Gurlitt struck a deal with the German government to help track down the rightful owners of the artwork.

A day after his death, the Museum of Fine Arts in Bern said it had been astonished to learn that it was named as the recipient of his collection in his will.

It is to announce Monday at a news conference in Berlin whether it will accept the bequest.

The spokesman for Uta Werner said the family had set out plans last week that foresaw the "unconditional" return of any looted artworks and transparent provenance work, if the court backed their motion.


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
A self-portrait by Otto Dix was apparently passed on by Hildebrand Gurlitt to his son Cornelius. Fair use rationale: This copyrighted image of a historically significant artwork is being used for informational and educational purposes. Image courtesy of Wikipaintings.org.
Last Updated on Friday, 21 November 2014 14:41
 

'Degenerate art' should go back to museums says adviser

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Written by AFP wire service   
Thursday, 20 November 2014 09:32
 'Das Magdeburger Ehrenmal' (the Magdeburg cenotaph), by Ernst Barlach was declared to be degenerate art due to the 'deformity' and emaciation of the figures—corresponding to Nordau's theorized connection between 'mental and physical degeneration.' Image by Chris 73.This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. BERLIN (AFP) – 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 labeled by Hitler as "degenerate" for violating the ideals of the Third Reich.

The issue of so-called degenerate art has recently regained 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.



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
 'Das Magdeburger Ehrenmal' (the Magdeburg cenotaph), by Ernst Barlach was declared to be degenerate art due to the 'deformity' and emaciation of the figures—corresponding to Nordau's theorized connection between 'mental and physical degeneration.' Image by Chris 73.This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 November 2014 09:52
 

Man who damaged Banksy art in Utah gets probation

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Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 19 November 2014 09:55

Dreweatts & Bloomsbury sold this Banksky painting in December 2013 in London for $291,326. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Dreweatts & Bloomsbury.

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) – A California man who pleaded guilty to defacing two murals believed to have been created by the mysterious British graffiti artist Banksy was sentenced to five years' probation Monday.

David William Noll already has paid $9,100 toward restoring the two works damaged on New Year's Eve. Prosecutors agreed not to seek jail time in the case if he pays the restoration costs, which are expected to total about $12,000.

Noll, 36, apologized for damaging the works, saying he suffers from bipolar disorder and remembers little of the night.

After the sentencing hearing, Noll told reporters he has launched a website to sell T-shirts and other items printed with his own art. He said he'll use the proceeds to reimburse his parents for the restoration costs.

Noll said he had some random anger at the time the works were damaged but he doesn't recall his exact motivation for defacing them. Police say he drove to Utah from California, defaced the works and drove back. Now in therapy, Noll said he likes Banksy's work.

Prosecutor Matthew Bates said he's happy with the resolution to the case, which calls for Noll to serve his probation in California and perform 100 hours of community service.

“Banksy” is a pseudonym for the graffiti artist known for silhouetted figures and spray-painted messages that show up in unexpected places. His works have sold for as much as $1.1 million at auction.

The Park City murals appeared on the city's historic Main Street in 2010, around the time Banksy was in town for the Sundance Film Festival debut of his documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop.

One depicts a young boy with a pink halo and angel wings kneeling to pray behind a can of pink paint. It was found covered in brown spray paint after the protective glass was shattered. Also damaged was a bulletproof-glass cover over a mural of a cameraman shooting video footage of a flower. A spider-web crack on the glass obscured the image.

Though Banksy's work could be considered graffiti itself, Bates said the owners of the buildings wanted it and protected it, which made defacing it a crime.

Police say they arrested Noll after finding YouTube videos he made of the vandalism in both Utah and California, where he remains on probation.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-11-17-14 2319GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

Dreweatts & Bloomsbury sold this Banksky painting in December 2013 in London for $291,326. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Dreweatts & Bloomsbury.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 November 2014 10:26
 

Egypt sentences 3 Germans over theft of antiquities

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Written by Associated Press   
Thursday, 13 November 2014 10:00
The Great Pyramid, which contains the burial chamber of King Khufu. Image by Berthold Werner. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

CAIRO (AP) – An Egyptian court has sentenced nine people, including three Germans who were tried in absentia, to five years in prison for theft and smuggling of antiquities.

The Giza Criminal Court issued its ruling on Tuesday, concluding that the men had chipped off a piece of stone from the burial chamber of King Khufu inside the Great Pyramid. The men were apparently trying to prove a theory that the pyramids were built by a civilization pre-dating the ancient Egyptians. German prosecutors identified two of the convicted Germans as Stefan Erdmann and Dominique Goerlitz, who is described in the German press as an “experimental archaeologist.”

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-11-11-14 1636GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
The Great Pyramid, which contains the burial chamber of King Khufu. Image by Berthold Werner. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.
Last Updated on Thursday, 13 November 2014 10:07
 

Judge approves bankruptcy exit plan for Detroit

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Written by ED WHITE, Associated Press   
Monday, 10 November 2014 10:47
Detail of a Diego Rivera fresco at the Detroit Institute of Art. Image by Carptrash (talk). This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license. DETROIT (AP) – A judge cleared Detroit to emerge from bankruptcy Friday, approving a hard-fought turnaround plan with a fervent plea to the people of this one-time industrial powerhouse to “move past your anger” and help fix the Motor City.

“What happened in Detroit must never happen again,” federal Judge Steven Rhodes said in bringing the case to a close a relatively speedy 16 months after Detroit – the cradle of the auto industry – became the biggest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy.

The plan calls for cutting the pensions of 12,000 non-public safety retirees by 4.5 percent, erasing $7 billion of debt and spending $1.7 billion to demolish thousands of blighted buildings, make the city safer and improve long-neglected basic services.

Rhodes praised decisions that settled the most contentious issues in the case, including a deal to prevent the sale of world-class art at the Detroit Institute of Arts and a consensus that prevented pension cuts from getting even worse. He said the pension deal “borders on the miraculous,” though he acknowledged the cuts could still cause severe misfortune for many who have been trying to get by on less than $20,000 a year.

Politicians and civic leaders, including Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, hailed Friday's milestone as a fresh start for the city. It was Snyder who agreed with state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr to take the city into Chapter 9, a drastic, last-ditch move that he promoted during his fall re-election campaign.

Detroit was brought down by a combination of factors, including corruption and mismanagement at City Hall, a long decline in the auto industry, and a flight to the suburbs that caused the population to plummet to 688,000 from 1.2 million in 1980. The exodus has turned entire neighborhoods into desolate, boarded-up landscapes.

With more square miles than Manhattan, Boston and San Francisco combined, Detroit didn't have enough tax revenue to cover pensions, retiree health insurance and buckets of debt sold to keep the budget afloat.

“Detroit's inability to provide adequate municipal services runs deep and has for years. It is inhumane and intolerable, and it must be fixed,” the judge said.

In signing off on the plan, Rhodes appealed to residents who expressed sorrow and disgust about the city's woes.

“Move past your anger. Move past it and join in the work that is necessary to fix this city,” he said. “Help your city leaders do that. It is your city.”

With Orr's term over and the city recently returned to the control of elected officials, “It is now time to restore democracy to the people,” the judge said.

The case concluded in lightning speed by bankruptcy standards. The success was largely due to a series of deals between Detroit and major creditors, especially retirees who agreed to accept smaller pension checks after Rhodes said they had no protection under the Michigan Constitution. Also, bond insurers with more than $1 billion in claims eventually dropped their push to sell off art and settled for much less.

It took more than two years for a smaller city, Stockton, Calif., to get out of bankruptcy. San Bernardino, a California city even smaller than Stockton, is still operating under Chapter 9 protection more than two years after filing.

Rhodes had to accept Detroit's remedy or reject it in full, not pick pieces. His appointed expert, Martha “Marti” Kopacz of Boston, said it was “skinny” but “feasible,” and she linked any future success to the skills of the mayor and City Council and a badly needed overhaul of technology at City Hall.

The most unusual feature of the plan is an $816 million pot of money funded by the state, foundations, philanthropists and the Detroit Institute of Arts. The money will forestall even deeper pension cuts and avert the sale of city-owned art at the museum – a step the judge warned “would forfeit Detroit's future.”

Mayor Mike Duggan, in office less than a year, is the fourth mayor since 2008, when Kwame Kilpatrick resigned in a scandal. A dreadful debt deal under Kilpatrick that locked Detroit into a high interest rate when rates were falling during the recession contributed to the bankruptcy.

Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah declared Detroit to be “on the cusp of a new era and primed to reinvent itself in a way many people did not think possible.”

“Exiting bankruptcy so effectively and thoughtfully has wiped out decades of mismanagement and created a historic opportunity to move the city without mortgaging its future,” Baruah said.

___

Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-11-08-14 0406GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
Detail of a Diego Rivera fresco at the Detroit Institute of Art. Image by Carptrash (talk). This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.
Last Updated on Monday, 10 November 2014 10:57
 
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