A German minister on Saturday proposed coming to an agreement with a reclusive hoarder of Nazi-looted art to display in public some of the 1,400 works confiscated from his flat in Munich last year.
The stash of paintings and drawings includes works by Duerer, Delacroix, Picasso, Matisse and German expressionists Otto Dix and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Authorities have valued the collection at 1 billion euros ($1.35 billion).
In an interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, Bavarian Justice Minister Winfried Bausback suggested coming to an “amicable settlement” with Cornelius Gurlitt, who has demanded his art back.
“We could, for example, certainly find a solution for some of the pictures by putting the works of art that are clearly of the greatest interest from an art-history perspective into a foundation that could also be made accessible to the public,” Bausback was quoted as saying.
Asked if this meant the works would come into public care, Bausback said he could imagine various models.
“It would be good if we could find a solution that all of the people involved can live with,” he added.
The legal status of much of the trove is unclear. Media reports suggest some 310-400 works will be returned to Gurlitt, the 80-year-old son of a war-era art dealer put in charge of selling confiscated “degenerate” art by Adolf Hitler.
Bausback suggested an agreement could encompass considering justified requests to return the pictures and the issue of how to store the pictures securely in the future.
In a separate interview with German news magazine Spiegel, Bausback said he had got his ministry to prepare a draft law that would prevent people who know that pictures or objects they buy or inherit have gone astray from their owners from invoking the civil statute of limitations.
Last week Gurlitt said he had never committed a crime but added that if he had, it would have expired, referring to the statute of limitations on offences.
Customs officers found Gurlitt crossing the Swiss border by train in 2010 with a large sum in cash, eventually prompting a raid on his apartment last year during which prosecutors confiscated the works, some long thought lost in the war and others hitherto undocumented.