From the time it came into power in Germany in 1933 until the end
of World War II in 1945, the Nazi regime instituted a program of
theft, confiscation, coercive transfer, looting, and destruction
of objects of art and other cultural property in Europe on an unprecedented
scale. During the post-war occupation of Germany, thousands of works
of art were repatriated to their countries of origin or their rightful
owners. In recent years, American museums have been actively engaged
in the identification and restitution of looted art in cooperation
with the American Association of Museums (AAM).
In conjunction with the AAM's Nazi-Era Provenance Internet
Portal, the Flint Institute of Arts is providing a list of works
of art from the permanent collection that qualify as "covered
objects," (please consult the description of covered objects
in the text below). On the right is a current list of detailed records
of works of art with images, which can be downloaded in PDF format by clicking on the thumbnail.
Additional records will be added as research progresses through
the museum's permanent holdings.
In the past decade, U.S. museums have come to recognize that objects
unlawfully appropriated during the Nazi era without subsequent restitution— that is with neither return of the object nor payment of compensation
to the object's original owner or legal successor—may have made
their way into U.S. museum collections in the decades since the war.
In 1998, the American Association of Museum Directors, after years of
work, ratified a document which clearly outlined the principles and guidelines
for dealing with related issues, and issued a mandate for museums to conduct
research, post findings, and resolve provenance issues before new works
The Flint Institute of Arts began research about one year ago on its collection, using the principles and guidelines recently established by the American Association of Museums (AAM) to determine if works of art in the collection may have been illegally confiscated by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s.
The ultimate goal of the project is to publicly post objects which have
questionable ownership histories on the AAM's Nazi-Era Provenance Internet
to assist people seeking objects lost or misappropriated in continental
Europe during the Nazi era (1933-1945). The FIA is undertaking this project
now, while some Holocaust survivors are still living. Members of
the public can use the Portal's database of objects in U.S. museum collections
to refine their searches.
This specialized research into the history of an artwork's ownership (provenance) is an important means of establishing legal ownership of the work. The FIA has made provenance research a top priority, as mandated by the AAM. The research project and the public dissemination of its findings will be conducted in accordance with the guidelines adopted by the AAM in June 1998. This dissemination of information through the AAM's Portal will not only aid in the identification of Nazi stolen works of art and their subsequent repatriation, but will also serve to broaden the public's awareness of this important issue. Through this project, the FIA will be able to fulfill its responsibility to make information about objects in its collection centrally accessible to the public.
Researching the history of an artwork's ownership and providing provenance
information to the public is consonant with the fundamental mission of
museums to document and publish their collections. By participating
in the AAM's Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal through listing any works
in the collection of the FIA which have histories that may be linked to
continental Europe during the period of the Nazi regime, the Flint Institute
of Arts is demonstrating its commitment to the open and responsible stewardship
of the objects under its care. Adherence to the guidelines set out
by AAM regarding the identification of potential Nazi stolen art and its
appropriate restitution is paramount to the success of this project.
The Flint Institute of Arts believes that performing research on its collection
for this project will result in not only achieving the goals set out by
the use of the Portal, but will also serve to promote the highest standards
of accountability and ethical practices in the museum field.
The Flint Institute of Arts' Nazi-Era Provenance Research Project will
focus its research on approximately 500 objects in the permanent collection
which fall under the categories identified by AAM, in order to determine
whether or not they are considered "covered objects" those with
questions in their ownership histories sufficient enough to be listed
on the Internet Portal. "Covered objects" include artworks:
1) that were created before 1946 and acquired by the museum after 1932;
2) that underwent a change in ownership between 1932 and 1946; 3) and
that were, or might reasonably be thought to have been, in continental
Europe between 1932 and 1946.
The AAM has also identified styles of art most collected by the Nazis, as
well as "red-flag" names in provenance documents which have been
identified by government resources as having relation to Nazi stolen objects.
Following these guidelines, the Flint Institute of Arts will begin its Nazi-era
research with European paintings. Research of the permanent collection
will also extend to decorative arts, sculpture, tapestries, and works on
paper. The goal of the FIA's research is to eventually post all of
the "covered objects" in the museum's permanent collection on
the AAM's Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal and the FIA's host web site.
A number of different sources will be used in conducting the research, including
curatorial files, museum and gallery archives, and governmental agencies.