Swiss art dealer and auctioneer Eberhard Kornfeld broke his silence about client Cornelius Gurlitt in an interview, detailing how the reclusive collector sold off artworks.
Gurlitt, who died in 2014, inherited over 1,200 artworks from his art dealer father who worked with the Nazis. He kept the works hidden in his Munich apartment for decades.
Periodically, Gurlitt sold art to cover living expenses, Kornfeld told Swiss Public Television, SRF. Kornfeld maintains that most of the sales were the "degenerate art" that Nazis scorned, but did not give details of sales.
“He probably paid the proceeds into his account in Zurich,” Kornfeld said. “After that, he travelled to Zurich every four to six weeks and fetched his €9,000 to pay his living costs. He had no job. He lived off the sales of works in this collection. He had no other income.”
In a surprise move, Gurlitt bequethed his trove of artworks to the Museum of Fine Arts in Bern, Switzerland upon his death instead of an institution in his native Germany.
“But Gurlitt was so awfully treated by Germany that his priority was certainly primarily that the collection shouldn’t remain there,” Kornfeld said.
Dual exhibitions of the collection are set to open in Bonn and in Bern where “Gurlitt: Status report. Degenerate Art – Confiscated and Sold” is on view from Nov. 2.