June 8, 2006

Website helps return Nazi loot to its owners

Posted at 7:51 pm in Similar cases

An accessible database of stolen artefacts has been created on the internet in an attempt to help museums and individuals avoid purchasing works that they believe to be legitimate, but which later turn out to be stolen. The availability of such databases should help avoid situations such as last years court case over painting looted from Dr Feldmann by the Nazis which ended up in the British Museum. To look at it from a different perspective, it will make it harder for museums to pretend that they knew what they were buying was legitimate if it is already listed in such a database.

CBC (Canada)

Website aims to get Nazi-looted art back to owners
Last Updated Thu, 08 Jun 2006 16:24:28 EDT
CBC Arts

A new website aims to reunite Holocaust survivors or their heirs with art looted by the Nazis.

Swift-Find, an online registry of valuables, has created a database where families who have lost art can post information, and auction houses or museums that question the provenance of a work can check it out.

Its Looted Art Project is led by Shauna Isaac, who has worked with governments and agencies to create a database of looted art.

When the Nazis controlled Europe, they looted cultural objects from every country they occupied.

The Allies collected plundered works in Munich after the war and returned most artworks to the country of origin of the artist. Many countries placed unclaimed works into museums.

The Swift-Find website estimates as many as 100,000 objects may not yet have been returned to their rightful owners.

Suspicion that work might be looted is still affecting art markets today. In the past year, Austria has had to return five Klimts to the American heirs of a Jewish art dealer and Britain has agreed to compensate a Czech family for art that made its way into the British Museum.

U.K.-based firm Swift-Find worked with Sotheby’s Auction House, which itself has a formal archive of looted war art, to create the website.

The project has an archive of works that contains 25,000 pieces that have yet to be recovered by their rightful owners.

Claimants are invited to register works they might be searching for. Museums, galleries, dealers and collectors have been invited to browse the site to check that works they are acquiring are not listed.

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