Suspected Nazi-looted art found in Germany mirrors ‘Monuments Men’ plot

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Movies occasionally grow a little more topical due to current events -- earlier this year, coverage of Trayvon Martin’s killing and the George Zimmerman trial made conversations about “Fruitvale,” a drama about the fatal shooting of a black man, even more relevant.

But rarely does such news date back 70 years.

Over the weekend, the upcoming George Clooney film “The Monuments Men,” a drama about the ragtag team of academics, historians and museum curators charged with saving thousands of art masterpieces looted by the Nazis, was the beneficiary of some startling new information tied to World War II.

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On Sunday, a German magazine reported that a raid on a Munich apartment two years ago had yielded artwork suspected of having been looted by Nazis. The works, valued at more than $1 billion, include paintings by Picasso and Matisse that were assumed to have been lost or destroyed during the global conflict.

Some or all of the pieces, recovered in the home of Cornelius Gurlitt, the 80-year-old son of a well-known Nazi-era art dealer, had been confiscated by the Nazis or sold cheaply by people desperate to leave Germany, according to the magazine Focus.

“The fact is there are still thousands of masterpieces yet to be found or returned to the rightful heirs,” said Grant Heslov, who with Clooney adapted Robert Edsel’s book “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.”

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“Some [of the artwork], as in this most recent case, is hidden in people’s homes, and some is hanging in plain sight on the walls of museums. [It’s] wild to make a film set in the ‘40s and see the story still playing out in 2013,” Heslov said.

The movie, which Clooney directed and stars in, features Matt Damon, John Goodman and Bill Murray. It originally had been set to come out Dec. 18, but Clooney and Heslov told domestic distributor Sony Pictures that they couldn’t finish the film’s special effects in time. “The Monuments Men” now will be released Feb. 7.


The raid on Gurlitt’s home was conducted two years ago, the German magazine Focus reported, but German officials have been trying ever since to sort out the provenance of the artwork, which is in storage outside Munich.


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