until further notice
Looted Art?
Provenance research on the collections of the MK&G

Systematic research to establish the origins and whereabouts of objects has been a focus of the scientific work at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MK&G) for many years. Now, the MK&G is giving a glimpse into its activities in the area of provenance research. The exhibition is conceived as a momentary snapshot in a continuous work in progress and traces the very diverse biographies of some 100 exhibits which have been the subject of investigation. These include art objects with authenticated proof of their provenance, but also others whose origins lie in the dark or which still need further research. The exhibits are not arranged chronologically or thematically, but according to their origin. In this way, networks and relationships between objects, the conditions under which art dealers operate and the predilections of individual private collectors are revealed. Research documentation such as auction catalogues, inventory books or art magazines make the paths traced by the researchers understandable for the observer. A special tour leads from the exhibition to additional objects in the permanent collections of the MK&G. The current scientific approach allows a pro-active and systematic research process, and focuses on works of art acquired during and after the Nazi period. The exhibition, together with its accompanying catalogue, is intended to create transparency concerning the present state of the investigations, but also to make people more aware of their own history and the circumstances under which acquisitions were made in the past. This spotlights the way non-European or ancient cultural artifacts were seen and treated, the criteria which regulate the acquisition of exhibits by museums today and the need for further research and action. The MK&G would like to present this important scientific discipline without focusing unduly on its results and to demonstrate its potential as well as its limits. Approaching one’s own history with an open mind plays as important a role in the exhibition as the question of the historical responsibility of a museum.

This exhibition has been made possible by the generous support of Justus Brinckmann Gesellschaft and Claussen-Simon-Stiftung.

Ill.: Silver, formerly Jewish property, photo: Dirk Fellenberg/Martin Luther, 2014