Provenance Research / Value of Cultural Assets

A historical, ethical, legal, economic and political clarification of the fate of artworks before, during and after National Socialism represents a central responsibility for Germany. Academically, this task decisively affects art history – in collaboration with other disciplines from philosophy through contemporary history to legal studies. The art thefts perpetrated by the National Socialists constitute the main focus. Nonetheless a pioneering approach must be more theoretically, geographically and historically based. This requires a comprehensive scientific basis for theory and action. In addition to basic research on the art market, art dealers, the actors and networks of the “art system”, the status of non-European cultural assets in German and western collections also counts as subjects to be examined. Research on the value of cultural assets in historical development, on their relocation and on international rules and standards formulated to protect those assets is highly relevant in light of recent events in conflict areas and war zones.

The Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (ZI) was founded in 1946/1947 as an independent research institute in direct connection with the Central Collecting Point (CCP) of the American military government in the former Administrative Building of the National Socialist party. For over 20 years the institute has been researching and publishing its findings on the art history of National Socialism and that of the immediate postwar era. In the specific area of “Provenance Research / Value of Cultural Assets” numerous research, inventory, digitization and database projects have been initiated by the ZI and achieved with various national and international collaborative partners.

In its library and photographic archive the ZI has excellent, and in some respect, unique resources at its disposal, especially for provenance research. Due to this infrastructure and its independent, open-ended research approach the ZI is repeatedly consulted for advice as well as assistance (among others by the state offices of criminal investigation in Berlin and Munich). The series of colloquia on provenance and collection research has established itself as an international platform for discussion, exchange and the presentation of projects.

Since 2009 Prof. Dr. Wolf Tegethoff as director of the ZI has been a member of the so-called Limbach Commission (Beratende Kommission im Zusammenhang mit der Rückgabe NS-verfolgungsbedingt entzogener Kulturgüter, insbesondere aus jüdischem Besitz).

The ZI is a founding member of the “Forschungsverbund Provenienzforschung in Bayern”, established in 2015.