Nazi Art Bust: Lack of Answers Leaves Art World Miffed

German officials have attempted to answer questions, but many are still angry

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Lefteris Pitarakis / AP

A researcher of the Art Loss Register at their offices in central London, on Nov. 6, 2013, points to a painting by Henry Matisse entitled 'Sitzende Frau' ('Sitting Woman') which is part of the art recently found in Munich.

German authorities revealed on Tuesday how they discovered an unprecedented trove of missing 20th-century European art in an elderly man’s apartment in Munich, but for some in the art world, many questions remain unanswered about the works, many of which are suspected of being looted by the Nazis.

Germany’s Focus magazine revealed earlier this week that authorities had made a discovery of over 1,400 paintings in the home of Cornelius Gurlitt, whom they had been investigating for tax evasion. German authorities have said that they discovered the art early last year.

As the story has unfolded, many basic questions, such as how Gurlitt, the son of alleged Nazi collaborator Hildebrand Gurlitt, could stay off the grid, have been raised.

German officials made some attempt to address these questions at a news conference on Tuesday. However, as the New York Times reports, they “offered only a peek” of the list of works uncovered, “provoking mounting criticism of officials’ slow and perhaps overly discreet handling of the trove.”

Officials in Augsburg explained their concern over privacy rights and issues with tracing the provenance of the works as reasons for not being forthcoming about the bust.

Among those who have been especially frustrated by the lack of information are the heirs of collectors whose missing artwork may be among the discovered trove. Marianne Rosenberg, the granddaughter of one of the former owners, French dealer Paul Rosenberg, told the Times she didn’t understand “why the German authorities have said nothing to date” and was angered by what she sees as their lack of communication.

[The New York Times]