Showing posts with label Washington Principles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Washington Principles. Show all posts

January 6, 2018

Conference - “20 years of the Washington Principles: Challenges for the Future”


Berlin, Germany


Monday-Wednesday, November 26-28, 2018.

Details Forthcoming

To be Announced

Attended by Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel and former US-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the 1998 Washington DC conference, hosted by the US Department of State and the Holocaust Memorial Museum, in order to develop a statement concerning the restitution of art confiscated by the Nazi regime in Germany before and during World War II.  This statement, sometimes referred to as "The Washington Declaration" or the "Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art", was developed to address the issue of assets and provided eleven non-binding principles on dealing with material confiscated by the Nazis.  The document specifically dealt with art and insurance, as well as communal property, archives, books, and built on remaining gold issues following the Nazi Gold conference which had been held in London in December 1997.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of this meeting, the Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste [DZK or German Lost Art Foundation] will be sponsoring an international conference scheduled to take place in Berlin, Germany from November 26 through November 28, 2018.

The conference is being organized with the Stiftung Preu├čischer Kulturbesitz  [the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation] and the Kulturstiftung des Bundes [the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States].

Please see the Holocaust Art Restitution Project for more details as they become available. 

March 13, 2011

Museums and Nazi-looted Art: Washington Principles vs. Terezin Declaration

by Emily Blyze, ARCA Alum 2009
Part four of a five-part weekend series

Principles 3, 4, and 5 of the Washington Principles are worthy of attention compared to the equivalent recommendations in the Terezin Declaration Looted Art Working Group (which happen to be 3, 4, and 5 as well). The Washington Principles address the issue of resources and personnel being available to facilitate identification of a Nazi confiscated work not restituted (3). If established that a work was confiscated and not restituted, consideration should be given to unavoidable gaps or ambiguities in the provenance in light of the passage of time (4). Efforts should also be made to publicize the work of art in order to locate its pre-War owners or heirs (5). By contrast, the WG recommendations state that export, citizenship, inheritance and cultural heritage laws should not be used to prevent the restitution of cultural property to claimants. The Principles make no mention of legal issues, whereas the recommendations from the WG that the 46 states modify restitution legislation and establish national claims procedures create a stronger point to be considered.

The WG Looted Art recommendation 7 asserts that Participating States should actively support the establishment and operation of an international association of all provenance researchers. The association should encourage cooperation between researchers, the exchange of information, the setting of standards, and education. The proposal to create an association is the first of its kind. It begs the question of why this has not been done before now.

A notable difference between the Washington Principles and the Terezin Declaration is the availability of information via the Internet. Relevant records and archives should be open and accessible to researchers, in accordance with the guidelines of the International Council of Archives, reads Principle 2 of the Washington Principles. Keep in mind the technology of 1998 was very sparse and the material that was recommended to be open and accessible was primarily documents and books. However, the openness and accessibility of the Internet today has offered up a whole new dimension. This is particularly significant with regard to Principle 6, which states that efforts should be made to establish a central registry. This conjures the questions of how it would be accomplished and by whom.

The guidelines that have been created are an initiative to address and bring awareness to the Nazi World War II era plundering of art. A practical mind would ask whether these guidelines are achievable. Museums have asked how effective and economical steps might be made towards correctly addressing their collections with proper provenance research. Specifically stated, the AAMD Commission recognizes that provenance research is difficult, expensive and time-consuming, often involving access to records that are hard or impossible to obtain, and that most museums lack the resources to accomplish this. The Washington Principles recommended that art confiscated by the Nazis and not subsequently restituted be identified. Terms in the Principles such as “should,” “encouraged,” and “fair and just solution” can be ambiguous and leave room for interpretation. Language with such vagueness is hard to define and leads to the question, how to proceed with the principles presented. Furthermore, the mechanics of conducting provenance research is a topic that has been mostly neglected in both art-historical literature and in academic programs, especially at a time when the museum profession is being required to draw increasingly upon a variety of disciplines in order to adapt and survive. Legal proficiency can surely occupy no lower a priority than the more general skills of economic literacy, resource management and commercial enterprise that have become so substantial a part of contemporary museum and gallery administration.

Museum professionals today are in need of a transferable and interdisciplinary skill set. Knowledge of art history, politics, the history of collections, and the locations of archival materials that document the movement of art, in addition to provenance research, (a fairly specialized methodology in its own right), are all essential.

From 1998 to 2009, the recognized guidelines have plotted out scenery of what provenance research should look like. However, has this been accomplished? Have museums taken a direction that is suitable? On September 3, 2003 the AAM created a website aptly named the Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal (NEPIP). The Internet Portal provides a searchable online registry of objects in U.S. museum collections that changed hands in Continental Europe during the Nazi Era (1933-1945). Since the website was established, more than 28,000 objects have been posted by 165 U.S. art museums.

In 2001, The AAM Guide to Provenance Research was written by Nancy Yeide. The comprehensive AAM Guide is divided into two parts. Part One is an overview of basic provenance research and principles. Instruction is given on how to gather information from the work itself and how to use primary and secondary sources. It also has a template on how to write a provenance record used by several major museums such as the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Part Two discusses Holocaust-Era provenance research and how research should be prioritized. A significant aspect of the AAM Guide is the appendix and a list of selected bibliographies on the history of collecting, research resources, dealer archives and locations, resources for auction sales and exhibitions. “Red-flag” names from The Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU) are present, as well as a list of consolidated and detailed interrogation reports and Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) codes. The ERR was the Nazi organization that carried out confiscations of Jewish property in occupied countries. Confiscations by the ERR in France alone total almost 17,000 objects from more than 200 families. The meticulous cataloguing of the collections confiscated was organized by codes assigned to the families from whom the objects were looted.

Nazi-looted Art Provenance: Emily Blyze on Museum Guidelines

by Emily Blyze, ARCA Alum 2009
Part three of a five-part weekend series

The crucial purpose of the European Shoah Legacy Institute in Terezin (Terezin Institute) is to follow up on the work of the Prague Conference and the Terezin Declaration. Initiated by the Czech Government, the Terezin Institute is a voluntary forum that facilitates an intergovernmental effort to develop non-binding guidelines and best practices for restitution and compensation of wrongfully seized immovable property. The priorities of the Terezin Institute will be to publish regular reports on activities related to the Terezin Declaration, develop websites to facilitate sharing of information, particularly in the fields of art provenance, as well as maintain and post lists of websites useful for Participating States, organizations representing Holocaust (Shoah) survivors and Nazi victims, and other non-governmental organizations (NGO).

Working Groups (WG) are composed of representatives of institutions with fundamental activities, field experience and research results related to the principal topics of the WG agenda. Each WG has two Co-Chairs (one from the Czech Republic and one from abroad) who are responsible for the overall planning and management of the agenda and schedule. The WGs established are Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, Immovable Property (Private and Communal), Looted Art, Judaica and Jewish Cultural Property, and a Special Session – Caring for Victims of Nazism and Their Legacy. Responsibilities of a WG are to prepare the agenda of the expert portion of the Prague conference, discuss the important focal points of their agenda, suggest the framework for presentations at the Prague conference, and draft recommendation for the final declaration.

The Looted Art Working Group prepared expert conclusions that acknowledges the Washington Principles, but “affirms the urgent needs to broaden, deepen and sustain these (Washington Principles) efforts in order to ensure just and fair solutions regarding cultural property looted during the Holocaust era and its aftermath."

March 12, 2011

Continued Discussion on Museum Guidelines for the Provenance of Nazi-Looted Art

Edgar Degas' "Landscape with Smokestacks" (Chicago Art Institute)
by Emily Blyze
ARCA Alum 2009

Part Two of Five in a special weekend series
Three major cases in the late 1990s shed light on the need for museums to have guidelines and policies on how to review their collections for Nazi-looted art.

Gutmann vs Searle: In 1995, Daniel Searle, a Board member of the Art Institute of Chicago, and then owner of the monotype pastel by Edgar Degas, Landscape with Smokestacks, received a claim from the family of Friedrich and Louise Gutmann, Dutch art collectors, who had owned the work prior to World War II. The case was settled in 1998. Searle, who purchased the work in good faith from a New York collector in 1987 on the Art Institute’s advice, had displayed the work on several occasions before receiving notice of the claim. Searle ceded a fifty percent (50%) ownership to the Art Institute and the other fifty percent (50%) was given to the Gutmann heirs, Lili Gutmann and her nephews, the Goodmans, who claimed the painting. As part of the settlement, the Art Institute purchased the Gutmanns’ half interest based on the current appraised value of the work.

Rosenberg vs Seattle Art Museum: The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) received a claim in 1997 from the Paul Rosenberg Family for the Henry Matisse painting, Odalisque. The SAM asked the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP), a Washington, D.C.-based independent research organization, to conduct a thorough, scholarly and impartial investigation of the painting's provenance. Upon the HARP findings, the SAM returned the painting to the Rosenberg heirs.

The Leopold Schiele case: The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York received claims in 1997 for two paintings, Dead City III and Portrait of Wally, by Egon Schiele on loan from the Leopold Museum in Austria. The U.S. government confiscated the paintings under the National Stolen Property Act when it was on loan from the Leopold, claiming that the museum knew the Nazis had stolen the painting in 1939 from its Jewish owner, Lea Bondi. Dead City III was returned to the Leopold Museum because its former owner had no heirs. The Portrait of Wally case was settled in July 2010: the Leopold Museum paid $19 million to the estate of pre-war owner.

The American Association of Museum Directors (AAMD) established the Task Force on the Spoliation of Art during the Nazi/World War II era (1933-1945) on June 4, 1998. The Task Force recommended that museums review the provenance of their collections. The report's topics include a section entitled Statement of Principles, a section on Guidelines with subcategories that addressed Research Regarding Existing Collections, Future Gifts, Bequests, and Purchases, Access to Museum Records, Discovery of Unlawfully works of Art, Response to Claims Against the Museum, Incoming Loans, and a section with Database Recommendations. An Addendum was released April 30, 2001.

In 1998, the U.S. Federal Government held a series of congressional hearings, forming a Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the U.S. (PCHA) and hosted the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets. In connection with the conference, the “Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art” was released on December 3, 1998. Forty-four governments participated in developing a consensus of the 11 non-binding principles to assist in resolving Nazi-confiscated art issues.

The American Association of Museums (AAM) drafted their guidelines, Unlawful Appropriation of Objects during the Nazi Era, issued in 1999. In 2001, the AAM and AAMD, along with the PCHA, issued their reports defining the standards for disclosure of information and the creation of a searchable central registry of museum object information, as detailed in the AAM Recommended Procedures for Providing Information to the Public about Objects Transferred in Europe during the Nazi Era, adopted in May 2001.

On June 30, 2009, the European Union held a Holocaust Era Assets Conference in Prague and established the Terezin Declaration. The 46 participating nations endorsed the Terezin Declaration that strengthened and reaffirmed the Washington Principles and reinforced the need for continued provenance research. The Terezin Declaration maintains the non-binding nature of the Washington Principles, but also promotes an urgent need to strengthen and sustain the efforts of the principles. The sense of urgency is noted, but why the need for the Terezin Declaration? What can be accomplished with the Terezin Declaration that could not with the Washington Principles? A letter from the Ambassador Milo┼í Pojar, Chairman of the Organizing Committee states, “It is our moral and political responsibility to support the Holocaust remembrance and education in national, as well as international, frameworks and to fight against all forms of intolerance and hatred.”

The Terezin Declaration conveys a sense of urgency that was much less noticeable within the Washington Principles. Due to the advanced age of those persecuted, the education, remembrance, and the social welfare needs of Holocaust (Shoah) survivors and other victims of Nazi persecution require a time of reflection on the need for tribute. The Terezin Declaration addresses the need to review current practices regarding provenance research and restitution and, where needed, to define new effective instruments to improve these efforts. The term “instrument” can be interpreted several different ways, including her, a working body constructed to carry out the mission of the Holocaust Era Assets Conference.

Part three will be posted tomorrow.

A Primer on Nazi-Looted Art Provenance: Emily Blyze on the Guidelines Established by Museums

by Emily Blyze, ARCA Alum, Class of 2009

Legal claims by heirs of Holocaust victims whose art works were looted by the Nazis, and claims by foreign “source” countries for objects they believe were exported in violation of patrimony or export laws, have raised awareness of the need for provenance research in regard to due diligence in acquiring works of art. Provenance research has now become the concern of many persons inside and outside the museum profession. This article will discuss the doctrines that have been created and established as common practice to guide museums to the proper handling and protocol for Nazi-looted art. The focus is on the guidelines of Nazi-Era provenance research, specifically addressing the 1998 Washington Principles and the more recent Terezin Declaration, as well as concentrating on the steps museums have taken as a result of the established guidelines. This is the first of a five part series.

In 2009, a Roman newspaper reported that two fingers and a tooth removed from the corpse of Galileo Galilei had been found and would be displayed in an Italian museum.  In 1737, three fingers, a vertebra, and a tooth had been removed from the astronomer’s body 95 years after his death as his corpse was being moved to a monumental tomb opposite that of Michelangelo in Santa Croce Basilica in Florence. One of the fingers recovered is part of the collection of the Institute and Museum of the History of Science (IMSS), in Florence. The vertebra is kept at the University of Padua where Galileo taught -- until the Vatican branded him a heretic for proposing that the Earth revolved around the sun. The tooth and the other two fingers from the scientist's right hand (the thumb and a middle finger) were coveted by an Italian marquis, enclosed in a container, and passed down from generation-to-generation, until it turned up at auction and was purchased by a private collector, intrigued by the contents but not sure they were Galileo’s relics. The relics were inside an 18th-century blown-glass vase within a wooden case topped with a wooden bust of Galileo. The buyer eventually contacted Paoloa Galluzzi, Director of the IMSS, and other Florence culture officials. Using detailed historical documents, as well as documentation from the family who had owned the body parts, they concluded the fingers and tooth had belonged to Galileo.

This story is an example of how the use of detailed documents from the museum and the family helped identify the ownership history of Galileo’s literal travel through time. The technical museum term for ownership history is “provenance.” When associated with a painting or other work of art, provenance means the history of ownership. Tracing the provenance of a painting traditionally has been a responsibility of museum curators. But that has changed in recent years, with the growth of the Internet, the availability of records from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and publicity surrounding high profile cases of Jewish-owned art stolen by Nazi officials. Legal claims by heirs of Holocaust victims whose art works were looted or otherwise misappropriated by the Nazis, and claims by foreign “source” countries for objects they believe were exported in violation of patrimony or export laws, have raised awareness of the need for provenance research in regard to due diligence in acquiring works of art. Provenance research has now become the concern of many persons inside and outside the museum profession.

Doctrines have been created and established as common practice to guide museums in the proper handling and protocol for Nazi-looted art from 1933 to 1945. The museum community has met over recent years to provide guidelines for Nazi-Era provenance research include the 1998 Washington Principles and the more recent Terezin Declaration. Why now? Awareness through articles, books and conferences during the early 1990s focused attention on this topic. The reunification of Germany, collapse of the Soviet Union, and the declassification of archival documents in the United States, together brought about a major resurgence of interest in Nazi looted art. Books such as Lynn H. Nicholas’s The Rape of Europa published in 1994 and Jonathan Petropoulous’s, Art as Politics in the Third Reich (1996) and The Faustian Bargain (2000) left readers with in-depth research of details and unflinching accounts of the art world during World War II.

A conference on January 19-21, 1995, “The Spoils of War – World War II and Its Aftermath: The Loss, Reappearance, and Recovery of Cultural Property,” organized by the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, provided the first forum on the subject. The conference dealt with the art and other cultural property that was looted, damaged, and destroyed in vast quantities by the Nazi armed forces and confiscation agencies and the consequences that ensued. Approximately 70 speakers and guest participants representing more than 15 countries discussed publicly their concerns about World War II recovery and restitution. The outcome was the 1997 publication of The Spoils of War by Elizabeth Simpson which reproduces the papers presented at the conference. Seventeen key legal documents that are often referred to, but rarely reproduced, have been added as appendices. The appendices contain relevant provisions of all major international treaties, laws, conventions, protocols, and official statements relating to wartime plunder, restitution, and repatriation.

Part two will be posted later today.