INTRODUCING PROVENANCE RESEARCH AND ART RESTITUTION
Dr Sabine Wieber, lecturer in art history, University of Glasgow
The 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets committed participating governments to investigate objects in their national collections that had changed legal ownership between 1933 and 1945 as a (direct or indirect) result of the Nazi regime’s persecution of Europe’s Jews. Ensuing research at museums, art galleries and auction houses across the world revealed the unprecedented scale of Nazi art looting and triggered a number of high-profile restitution cases such as the legal battles over Egon Schiele’s painting of Wally (1912) or Gustav Klimt’s portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (1903–1907).
Over the past decade provenance research has widened its original focus on Nazi-era looting and brought to light other forced displacements of artefacts through, for example, the complex legacies of colonialism. Researchers are now beginning to reflect on the agency and identity of objects, the logistics of their relocation and ethical consequences of this removal from their original contexts.
This course offers a brief introduction to key principles of provenance research and presents two case studies to illustrate some of its complexities and dilemmas.
1. What is provenance research and why does it matter?
2, ‘The Woman in Gold’ and Schiele’s Wally (Vienna–Los Angeles–New York)
3. The Benin Bronzes (London–West Africa)