More than 1,500 Nazi-confiscated modernist paintings, including pieces by Picasso, Matisse, and Chagall, were discovered in a Munich apartment during a tax evasion-related raid in 2011, according to a report in German magazine Focus.
The paintings, valued at $1.35 billion, were found in the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, the 80-year-old son of German art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt. The elder Gurlitt, who was half-Jewish, lost his job as a museum director when Hitler came to power but was charged during WWII with finding foreign buyers for the art collection, which the Nazis considered "degenerate" and "un-German." Instead, it appears Gurlitt kept many of the paintings, and left them to his son after his death.
The younger Gurlitt hid the collection in his apartment for decades, reportedly storing the paintings in darkened rooms next to canned foods and selling one every few years for living expenses. German authorities accidentally discovered the art while raiding Gurlitt's apartment in 2011, several months after a random cash check on a Swiss train triggered a tax-evasion investigation.
According to the Guardian, German authorities may have kept the find a secret in order to work out the complicated diplomatic process of returning the paintings—many of which were stolen from Jewish collectors during WWII—or paying restitutions to claimants from around the world.
[Image of Gurlitt's Munich apartment via Getty]