PROJECTS

Since October 2013

ALFRED FLECHTHEIM.COM 

Gallery owner and art dealer Alfred Flechtheim (1878–1937) ranked among the most influential actors in the German and international art scene during the first third of the 20th century. By 1913 he opened his first gallery in Düsseldorf, followed by others in Berlin and Frankfurt. Within no time, Flechtheim became one of the patrons of the avant-garde movement, promoting artists like Max Beckmann, George Grosz, and Paul Klee especially in Germany. Facing considerable anti-Semite attacks as early as 1933, he was forced to leave Germany for London. There he intended to further go about his business as an art dealer, but passed away in 1937 after an accident. Returning to Germany, his widow received a notice of deportation in 1941 and committed suicide thereupon.

Until this day, the traces of Flechtheim’s efforts as an art dealer can not only be made out at Museum Kunstpalast, but across museums throughout Germany. In most cases, however, the circumstances of the works’ leaving his galleries for the museums around 1933, when Flechtheim was forced to give up his business in Germany, were uncertain.

On this account, the research project Alfred Flechtheim.com was initiated in 2009, intending to retrace, elucidate, and – if possible – to document the works’ paths from Flechtheim’s galleries to each museum collection.
The results of this research were published in October 2013 on www.alfredflechtheim.com. Alongside the provenance investigations, the site provides insights to the workings of the art market as well as to the acquisition policies of the respective institutions. Altogether, the following museums participated in this project, thereby significantly contributing to provenance research in general:

  • Kunstmuseum (Bonn Museum of Modern Art), Bonn
  • Kunsthalle Bremen
  • Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte (Museum of Art and Cultural History), Dortmund
  • Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf
  • Stiftung Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (State Collection North Rhine-Westphalia), Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf
  • Städel Museum, Frankfurt
  • Hamburger Kunsthalle
  • Sprengel Museum Hannover
  • Staatliche Kunsthalle (State Art Gallery), Karlsruhe
  • Museums of the City of Cologne
  • Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections), Munich
  • Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte (State Museum of Art and Cultural History), Münster
  • Staatsgalerie (State Gallery), Stuttgart
  • Rietberg Museum, Zürich

The 1937 Confiscation of ‘Degenerate Art’ in the Art Collections of the City of Düsseldorf

Identification of artworks. Registration of objects and accession data. Research project 2013

This research project on the 1937 confiscation of ‘degenerate art’ from the art collections of the City of Düsseldorf (now Museum Kunstpalast) was conducted on behalf of the ‘Degenerate Art’ Research Center of the Freie Universität Berlin. Funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation, its objective was to identify all relevant works in this regard, to register object data, and to document accession dates. Research was largely based on the records on confiscated artworks compiled and provided through the ‘Degenerate Art’ Research Center.

Taking these records as a starting point, Düsseldorf’s museums were asked to add to them all relevant information on each work available from inventory books, lists, image files, and historical correspondence. The historical files in the city archive of Düsseldorf were to be assessed in view of relevant documents, which, if necessary, could be consulted in the revision of data on the confiscation.

Altogether, far less paintings have been seized in 1937 than was assumed as yet. Earlier documents from Düsseldorf’s city archive were shown to mention merely a number of 103 confiscated paintings (instead of 121 listed originally) and ten sculptures. In conclusion, the research conducted has helped to resolve the objects’ whereabouts, that is, their provenance to a large extent.

It turned out that the lists known thus far also bore incorrect information regarding the works on paper. Significant details, which will prove valuable in the identification of prints, could be discovered, the names of unknown artists corrected, and repurchases recorded. This project has shown that an overall number of 1055 works by 192 different artists can be considered confiscated, rather than the previously assumed number of 899 works.

Additionally, new insights were gained on the sale or trade of Modern art on behalf of the Museum from 1933 onwards. In 1937, for instance, some transactions were conducted with Galerie Möller (Otto Dix, ‘Selbstporträt’, Oskar Kokoschka, ‘Porträt Hauer’, among others). These show that some of the pictures believed confiscated have not been part of the Museum’s collection at the time after all.

The research results are available in the inventory of confiscations: http://emuseum.campus.fu-berlin.de/eMuseumPlus

Lühdorf Collection

Research project 2014/15

The objective of this project was to assess those works in the Museum’s Collection of Prints and Drawings, which used to be part of the collection of Düsseldorf lawyer Dr. Hans Lühdorf (1910–1983). More specifically, those works amongst them that were made before 1945 and that entered the holdings of the Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf – now Museum Kunstpalast – between 1949 and 1964.

A total number of 103 prints were examined – most of them expressionist works by Erich Heckel, Wassily Kandinsky, Emil Nolde, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, and others. While most of them were donated to the Collection of Prints and Drawings in 1964, some had already been acquired from Dr. Hans Lühdorf as early as 1949 and 1950. Since initially the exact timeframe during which the latter compiled his collection was unknown, researchers sought to uncover and document everything from the time of a work’s creation through to its acquisition by Lühdorf. In view of possible confiscation by the Nazi regime, special attention was paid to the years 1933–1945. All gaps remaining in the provenances were pointed out and a final assessment of their dubiousness was performed.

The research results are available here.

Researching Provenance

In 1998 the Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets released a statement including eleven principles concerning the restitution of artworks confiscated by the Nazi regime. All museums of the signatory states were called upon to closely examine their collections in terms of provenance, with a particular focus on works unjustly expropriated during the times of National Socialism.
In the Gemeinsame Erklärung (Joint Declaration) of 1999, the Federal Republic of Germany reaffirmed its willingness to track down more Nazi-looted cultural property and, if necessary, to take all requisite steps leading to a fair and equitable solution.
As of then, Museum Kunstpalast has made a great effort to comply with this commitment and, in the long run, to assess the provenances of all works in the collection acquired after 1933 or made before 1945.
During the years of National Socialism, Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf – now Museum Kunstpalast – acquired several artworks, especially in the Netherlands and in France. More than 130 paintings were returned immediately after the War, followed by further restitutions in later years. Even today, however, there remain several pre-1945 pieces that entered the collection through purchase, trade, donation, and estates with gaps in their provenance. Confiscation by the Nazis can thus not be ruled out in all cases. For this reason, a research project for the assessment of all relevant provenances was set up between 2010 and 2012, attending to all accessions of Modern art between 1950 and 1960. In September 2012, this project was succeeded by an equally funded long-term investigation of the provenances of all accessions of the Museum’s Gallery of Paintings between 1933 and 1945.
The objective of these efforts was to systematically assess the provenances of all works in terms of changes in ownership during National Socialism and to single out all dubious cases where appropriate – either for further research or to add them to the German Lost Art Foundation’s database ‘Lost Art’ because of their unresolved or suspicious provenance.
The Museum’s research efforts have greatly contributed to the detection, identification, and elucidation of Nazi-looted cultural property – also by adding these objects to lostart.de.
All projects have been funded by the German Lost Art Foundation, formerly the Center for Provenance Research at the Institute for Museum Research of the Berlin State Museums – Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

Contact:
Museum Kunstpalast
Barbara Til, Deputy Head of Collections
Tel. +49 (0) 211 56642350
Email: barbara.til(at)smkp.de

Provenance Researcher of the City of Düsseldorf
Jasmin Hartmann
Tel.  +49 (0) 211 89 987 86
Email: jasmin.hartmann(at)duesseldorf.de

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