The reclusive German owner of more than 1,400 art works, some possibly stolen by the Nazis during World War II, told Der Spiegel magazine in an exclusive interview that the paintings were legally acquired and he would not hand them over by choice.
"I'm giving nothing up voluntarily," Cornelius Gurlitt told the German magazine, saying his father Hildebrand Gurlitt, an art dealer allegedly commissioned by the Nazis to sell works they didn't want to keep, had "legally" obtained the art.
It's still unclear who were the original owners of the art, which includes works from masters such as Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Otto Dix and Max Liebermann. The estimated worth of the paintings, found last year in Gurlitt's apartment in Munich, is about $1.35 billion.
If it's proven that the paintings were stolen during World War II, the discovery could lead to restitution claims by the heirs of those who originally owned the paintings.
Der Spiegel said of Gurlitt: "He knows a lot about their origins... but prefers to keep that to himself." And as the magazine notes, there are still plenty of unanswered questions:
Is it stolen art? Degenerate art? Who owns them? What brought them to the apartment in Munich's Schwabing neighborhood? And how should authorities handle all the issues related to the discovery?
Gurlitt says he and his father, who, according to CBS has "Jewish heritage," have done nothing wrong.
"Saying goodbye to my pictures was the most painful of all," he said. "I hope everything will be cleared up quickly, so I can finally have my pictures back."
He added: "And there is nothing I have loved more in my life than my pictures."