Just like people, works of art also have a kind of biography. Reconstructing these stories of origin is the task of provenance research. The Art Forum East German Gallery has been running a project for this since December 2018. The aim is to examine where the works were located before they entered the collection and to uncover possible cases of Nazi looted art.
The task of provenance research is to compile "biographies of works" that are as complete as possible. Stamps, stickers or inscriptions found on works of art often provide important clues as to their origin. Such clues are combined with information from archive holdings, purchase contracts, publications or auction catalogues. In ideal cases, the circumstances and changes of ownership of a work of art can thus be reconstructed.
A major focus of these investigations is the period from 1933 to 1945, as countless cultural assets were looted and expropriated during the National Socialist era and are no longer in the possession of their rightful owners or their heirs today. The aim here is to identify works of art from property confiscated as a result of Nazi persecution and to find "fair and just" solutions in accordance with the “Washington Conference Principles“ “Washington Conference Principles“ The Washington Conference Principles are legally non-binding principles for identifying and dealing with works of art confiscated by the Nazis. They stipulate that, wherever possible, these artworks are to be returned to their pre-war owners or their heirs. .
The Art Forum East German Gallery (KOG) has been carrying out systematic research into the provenance of the foundation's own painting collections since December 2018. The office set up specifically for this purpose was funded by the German Center for Lost Cultural Assets ("Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste") and the Office for Non-State Museums ("Landesstelle für die nichtstaatlichen Museen") in Bavaria. Initially, research will be conducted on around 140 paintings from the collection, which were produced before 1946 and where there are gaps in provenance between 1933 and 1945. A further provenance research project will follow in December 2020 with the aim of investigating the provenance of works in the KOG collection that are on permanent loan from the Federal Republic of Germany. In addition to paintings, these pieces include graphic artworks and sculptures.
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