July 25, 2006

Museums slow to check their collections for Nazi loot

Posted at 1:02 pm in Similar cases

A survey shows that museums in the USA are still not doing enough to check their existing collections for pieces that may have been looted by the Nazis.
Oddly, the Metropolitan Museum in New York & Boston’s Museum of Fine arts have been highlighted as having an exemplary record in this area.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

U.S. museums slow to check collections for Nazi-looted art
Last Updated Tue, 25 Jul 2006 15:55:41 EDT
CBC Arts

A survey of some of the biggest art museums in the United States shows that the majority of them are doing little to determine if any of their paintings were looted by the Nazis in the 1930s and ’40s.

Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, a New York-based claims conference, surveyed 332 U.S. museums in February.

The conference asked the museums about progress in researching items created before 1946 that underwent a change of ownership between 1932 and 1946 and may have been in Europe during that period.

But 118 of the museums did not report at all and 33 per cent presented incomplete information.

Among the museums that did not reply to the survey are the Solomon Guggenheim Museum in New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Princeton University Art Museum.

The American Association of Museums adopted guidelines seven years ago that U.S. museums should comply with efforts to assess the history of art in their collections and return objects that may have been stolen by the Nazis to their rightful owners.

About 18,000 looted works of art are unaccounted for, the claims conference group estimates.

High-profile cases in past year

Nazi-looted art has been a hot issue in the past year. An Austrian museum returned five Klimts to the American heirs of a Jewish art dealer, and Britain agreed to compensate a Czech family for art that made its way into the British Museum.

The U.S. museums that responded to the survey listed 140,000 works that fell within the disputed period.

However, less than half of the works at the co-operating museums have had their provenance checked to ensure they did not pass through Nazi hands.

And only a handful of museums devote a budget or full-time staff to the research.

A least two museums — The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and The Museum of Fine Art in Boston — were singled out for going above and beyond the guidelines to identify and return questionable pieces.

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