CCP and Founding of the ZI

Bildergalerie CCP
Image gallery Central Collecting Point Munich

Art Preservation, Restitution and Scholarship: The Central Art Collecting Point (1945-1949) and the Founding of the ZI 1946

In June 1945 the American Office of Military Government installed the Central Art Collecting Point in the former National Socialist Party buildings on Königsplatz in Munich. This art collection facility was to restitute cultural property looted by the National Socialist regime to its rightful owners. The institutionalization of this facility as well as the art historical activities carried out at the Collecting Point relied on the cooperation of allied military, government, and civilian organizations and institutions. The Monuments, Fine Arts, & Archives Section (MFA&A) was the agency of the military government responsible for the Collecting Point in the American occupation zone.

The removal of art works and cultural properties from their provisional storage locations to Munich began in June 1945. These remote storage facilities included Schloss Neuschwanstein, Kloster Buxheim, the salt mine near Altaussee and numerous other locations. On arrival the art objects were registered and labelled with an accession number (the so-called M- or Munich number) and information about provenance, storage location, the item and its technique, as well as a short description. Restitution to the affected European countries and within Germany began in August 1945.

Decisively encouraged by the art historian Craig Hugh Smyth (1915-2006), the first director of the Central Collecting Point 1945-46, in November 1946 the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte was established as an internationally oriented art historical research centre. The founding director of the institute was Ludwig Heinrich Heydenreich (1903-1978) who was supported during the initial years by Wolfgang Lotz (1912-1981), acting director of the ZI in 1946-47, along with the head of the library Otto Lehmann-Brockhaus (1909-1999). The new institute developed its scholarly activities in close cooperation with the Collecting Point and took over its library and photographic archive, for example.

In September 1949 the American military government turned over to the German officials the responsibility for the safekeeping and restitution of the looted artworks that still remained in the Collecting Point. From 1952 to 1962 the Trusteeship of Cultural Assets, Munich, subsequently the regional finance office Munich was in charge of the remaining assets of the former Central Collecting Points Munich and Wiesbaden, for restitutions and the cases of undetermined provenance. Today the return of unrestituted works falls within the purview of the Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues in Berlin.

In 1998 with the so-called Washington Principles an international agreement was made to facilitate the identification and restitution of art looted during the National Socialist era. In 1999 the German federal government, the federal states and leading municipal organizations issued a declaration announcing their intention to make increased contributions “to location and return of cultural property confiscated through National Socialist persecution, particularly that of Jewish ownership.”

The Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte is currently investigating whether its holdings include cultural property that was stolen or confiscated due to National Socialist persecution. If this is the case, the items will be restituted. In addition, the Zentralinstitut is involved in art historical provenance and collection research because of the history of its origins as well as the characteristics of its library and photographic archive holdings.

The ZI is a founding member of the Research Network for Provenance Research in Bavaria (“Forschungsverbund Provenienzforschung in Bayern”) established in 2015.

Further Reading

  • Iris Lauterbach: Der Central Collecting Point in München. Kunstschutz, Restitution, Neubeginn, München / Berlin 2015 (Veröffentlichungen des Zentralinstituts für Kunstgeschichte in München, 34)
  • 1947: Kunstgeschichte in München Institutionen und Personen im Wiederaufbau, hg. von Iris Lauterbach, München 2010 (Veröffentlichungen des Zentralinstituts für Kunstgeschichte in München, XXII)
  • Rüdiger Hoyer; Iris Lauterbach: Grands instituts d'histoire de l'art: le Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte à Munich, in: Nouvelles de l'INHA,  2004, 17 (avril 2004), S. 11-13
  • Iris Lauterbach: Die Gründung des Zentralinstituts für Kunstgeschichte.
    In: 200 Jahre Kunstgeschichte in München: Positionen Perspektiven Polemik, 1780-1980, hg. von Christian Drude und Hubertus Kohle, München 2003, S. 168-181 (Münchener Universitätsschriften des Instituts für Kunstgeschichte, 2)
  • Das Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte / Konzeption und Redaktion: Iris Lauterbach, München: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, 1997 (Veröffentlichungen des Zentralinstituts für Kunstgeschichte in München, XI)
  • Craig Hugh Smyth: Repatriation of art from the collecting point in Munich after World War II: background and beginnings; with reference especially to the Netherlands, Maarssen [u.a.] 1988 (Gerson Lecture, 3)