BERLIN (AP) — A museum in Switzerland said Wednesday that it has been named the "unrestricted and unfettered sole heir" of a German art collector whose priceless hoard of long-hidden artworks last year set off an uproar over the fate of art looted by the Nazis.
The Kunstmuseum Bern, in the Swiss capital, said it was "surprised and delighted" at the appointment, of which it was informed by Cornelius Gurlitt's lawyer, Christoph Edel.
"At the same time, (we) do not wish to conceal the fact that this magnificent bequest brings with it a considerable burden of responsibility and a wealth of questions of the most difficult and sensitive kind, and questions in particular of a legal and ethical nature," it said in a statement.
The museum said that the news "came like a bolt from the blue" as it had never previously had any dealings with Gurlitt, who died age 81 at his Munich apartment on Tuesday.
Edel's office declined to comment. It referred questions to Gurlitt's spokesman, Stephan Holzinger, who said his client summoned a notary early this year before he underwent heart surgery, with his lawyer also present, but that it was up to the Munich district court to determine whether there is a valid will.
The court said it hasn't yet received the will, but that if it is found to be valid a foreign heir has six months to decide whether or not to accept the bequest.
German investigators seized more than 1,000 artworks from Gurlitt's Munich apartment two years ago after chancing upon the trove of paintings, print and drawings by masters such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall. Authorities disclosed the find only in November following a report by German magazine Focus.
Gurlitt initially insisted that he had rightfully inherited all of the works from his father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, who at one point had acted as an art dealer for the Nazis.