Walker Art Center

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Provenance Research Project

Introduction

In April 2000, museum directors from across the country joined together to present testimony before the Presidential Commission on Holocaust Assets to discuss their desire to make information on provenance (history of ownership) research on their collections more widely accessible. As a result, the Walker Art Center has now made this research available to the general public through this website in accordance with the American Association of Museums (AAM)’s April 2001 “Guidelines Concerning the Unlawful Appropriation of Objects During the Nazi Era.” An excerpt from the introduction to the AAM guidelines reads:

From the time it came into power in 1933 to the end of World War II in 1945, the Nazi regime orchestrated a system of theft, confiscation, coercive transfer, looting, pillage, and destruction of objects of art and other cultural property in Europe on a massive and unprecedented scale. Millions of such objects were unlawfully and often forcibly taken from their rightful owners, who included private citizens, victims of the Holocaust; public and private museums and galleries, and religious, educational, and other institutions.

Hitler’s thefts of cultural property began in earnest after 1933 with the establishment of the ERR (Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg), his official art-looting agency. In response to this very dark moment in human history, the AAM has mandated member cultural institutions with permanent collections to do due diligence in conducting research with the goal of identifying works of art that may have been in Nazi coffers during this era. The ultimate goal being that in the event that it is discovered that a work is looted or stolen, that it may be restituted to its rightful owner or heirs.

Research Method

As recommended by the AAM, the Walker Art Center’s research has focused on European paintings in its collection:

  1. that were created before 1946 and acquired after 1932
  2. that underwent a change of ownership between 1932 and 1946
  3. that were or may have been in continental Europe between 1932 and 1946

The Walker has a relatively small collection of nine paintings that fit the first criterion and research into the second and third criteria is an ongoing process. As progress is made and more information is unearthed, the findings will be posted on this website. It must be stated however that the inclusion of a work on the following list does not in any way demonstrate that it was looted during the Holocaust era. Gaps in provenance occur in every time period for myriad reasons including spotty record keeping by artists or previous owners, lack or loss of sales or transaction records such as invoices and receipts, correspondence, shipping records, and the common desire of buyers and sellers (including dealers and auction houses) to remain anonymous. It is somewhat rare that a work of art has a complete record of ownership, and it is for this reason that gaps in provenance do not necessarily indicate that a work was looted or stolen.

Key to Reading Provenance Research

The provenance of our paintings will be listed in entries in chronological order starting with the earliest known collector or exhibition in which the work in question was exhibited. The last entry will note how the painting entered the Walker Art Center’s collection. Footnotes will elaborate on the information in each entry and will cite if possible the source of the information.

Contact

The Walker will continue to post information on this website, as provenance research is completed. However, if you have questions about the provenance history of a specific work (or works) in the collections of Walker Art Center, we will be happy to provide you with the current state of research. Should you have any information regarding the provenance of a work of art in our collection, we invite and encourage you to contact us. Please direct your correspondence to:

Provenance Research Project
Department of Visual Arts
Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55403