The biggest art deal in the Nazi-era was executed in August 1935, when the Prussian Finance Minister paid the enormous amount of 7.5 million German marks to the Dresdner Bank, acquiring 4,401 objects and artworks for the Berlin museums. Most of these pieces were collateral, or were related to previous owners who had loans with the bank, or its predecessor or subsidiary institutions. After the objects were acquired, only some were inventoried, exhibited, and published, while others were deaccessioned.
Today, not only do the museums in Berlin still possess these objects, but many other institutions, including The Museum of Modern Art in New York – sometimes unknowingly. This exceptional transaction, including the artworks’ history both prior to the transaction and afterwards, is hardly known, nor has it been the subject of study or scientific exploration. Identifying the objects’ provenance is crucial for museums – especially since the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art stipulated that institutions must work to identify unlawfully acquired objects in their collections This lecture will present this unique transaction as well as focusing on the history of Marc Chagall’s Over Vitebsk in MoMA’s collection to exemplify the methodology, sources, and challenges of provenance research as it relates to art as collateral and to the hidden aspects of the art market.
Lynn Rother is Senior Provenance Specialist at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Previously, she was a research specialist on World War II-era provenance at the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, which oversees most of the museums in Berlin. She delivered expert opinions on major restitution claims and her research led her to archival collections around the world. She completed her dissertation (Technische Universität Berlin), “Art as Collateral,” while she was a residential Fellow at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 2014–15. Her dissertation built upon her master's curriculum in art history, finance, and law.
Image: Marc Chagall, Over Vitebsk, 1915-20 (after a painting of 1914), Oil on canvas, 26 3/8 x 36 1/2" (67 x 92.7 cm). Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest, 277.1949. © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.
VISITOR INFORMATION: Oshman Hall is located in the McMurtry Building, located at 355 Roth Way on Stanford's campus. Parking is free after 4 PM weekdays. Entry is free of charge and open to the public - all are encouraged to attend!
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