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BBC Scotland arts correspondent Pauline McLean
"Glasgow Museums will have to draw up a list of any doubtful artworks"
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Monday, 30 October, 2000, 20:23 GMT
Burrell review over looting fears
The Burrell Collection
The Burrell Collection is housed in Glasgow
A review of the world famous Burrell Collection in Glasgow is under way amid fears it could contain art looted by the Nazis.

Some of the collection's most famous works were bought in the 1930s in the lead-up to World War Two.

And Glasgow City Council fears some of them could have been stolen from Jewish families by the Nazis.

The council has submitted a report to the National Museum Directors' Conference, which investigates the history of potentially suspect artworks.

The report says: "Burrell dealt extensively with British and European dealers known to have sold works of dubious provenance, so the threat to our good title, on at least some works, must be considered very real.

This is a grim task for us, but the motivation behind it is human rights and the reclamation of stolen objects

Mark O'Neill, head of museums
"Unfortunately our records often do not show the whereabouts of the works which allow us to prove a bill of health back to 1933."

Bosses are particularly worried about some pre-impressionist and post-impressionist works whose histories between 1933 and 1945 cannot be accounted for.

William Burrell, a wealthy shipping owner, bought several of the collection's famous artworks during the time of the Nazi regime in Germany.

These included two masterpieces by Cezanne and Degas.

But it is believed that he would have been unaware that any of the artwork could have been stolen from persecuted families.

Rodan's The Thinker
The Thinker by Rodan is in the collection
Glasgow City Council is now compiling computerised records of each object.

Only a sixth of the collection - about 200,000 artworks - has so far been digitally stored.

Mark O'Neill, the city's head of museums, said: "This is a grim task for us, but the motivation behind it is human rights and the reclamation of stolen objects - and we are doing the right thing."

Lord Grenville Janner, chairman of the Holocaust Education Trust, said: "I very much doubt that Glasgow's museums and galleries want to be in possession of stolen property."

About a quarter of a million works of art are believed to have been taken by the Nazis during WWII.

List of artworks

The World Jewish Congress estimates that about 110,000 works remain unaccounted for across Europe.

Earlier this year it emerged that more than 50 paintings in Scotland's national galleries were included on a list of artwork which may have been looted.

Under current law, British galleries are barred from disposing of art that they hold in trust for the nation.

The government has set up an advisory panel to deal with claims from people, or their heirs, who believe they had treasures stolen.

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See also:

29 Feb 00 | Scotland
Scottish galleries on 'looted' list
17 Feb 00 | UK
Hope for Nazi loot victims
26 Jun 99 | Entertainment
Brushing out the taint of looted art
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