Press release | 26 November 2021 | pp

Paris: Art Acquisitions During the German Occupation

Research portal on actors in the French art market from 1940 to 1945 launches

The French art market boomed during the German occupation from 1940 to 1945. Art theft was legitimized, provenance was concealed, and business deals covered up. Museums and high Nazi officials systematically got rich with valuable objects, some of which came from Jewish ownership. On 3 December 2021, the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA) published a digital open access portal with a collection of more than 150 biographic articles about those involved in this art market. The portal is the result of a research cooperation with international experts, led by Dr. Elisabeth Furtwängler from the Institute of Art History and Historical Urban Studies in the Chair of Modern Art History in Germany and Dr. Ines Rotermund-Reynard in France.

"The portal will help anyone worldwide who, nearly 80 years after the end of World War II, is interested in shedding light on the fate of people and looted works of art," explain Elisabeth Furtwängler and Ines Rotermund-Reynard. "The articles are written by 70 international authors and reconstruct the personal backgrounds of important actors as well as examine the complex networks they were active in, referencing artworks which passed through their hands. The portal is intended to help researchers around the globe better understand the art market at that time."

The website will be officially launched during an event in Paris. A recording of the event will be available at a later date on INHA's YouTube channel.

When: 3 December 2021, 18:30-20:00
Where: Institut national d’histoire de l’art, Galerie Colbert, Auditorium Jacqueline Lichtenstein, 75 002 Paris

The collection will initially be available in French and German on the INHA website. An English translation is scheduled for spring 2022. The collection includes portraits of dealers, appraisers, agents, and others who were active on the market and reference archival sources of use to art historians, provenance researchers, and anyone else seeking information.

After the expulsion and murder of previous protagonists, new actors encouraged a flourishing trade - including in stolen art

There are already numerous publications, research projects, and databases dedicated to the art theft of the National Socialists. However, until now there hadn't been a comprehensive research project dedicated to the French art market during the German occupation. There are still many gaps in our knowledge about the transfer of objects and the illegal trade in and theft of works of art, which were favored by the German occupation in France, as new actors changed the usual trade channels after some of the previous protagonists had been excluded, expelled, or murdered. Comprehensive identification of the actors at the time, their operations, and the works which passed through their hands is essential to the work and research of provenance researchers. The articles in the "Repertory of actors on the French art market during the German occupation between 1940 and 1945" will be supplemented with 830 documentary entries providing facts about private individuals and entities. This paints a picture of the diversity of the actors and their multi-faceted networks, through which art was traded: art dealers, gallerist, brokers, appraisers, antiquities dealers, auctioneers, transport companies, photographers, art historians, museum staff, artists, collectors, art lovers, and other providers of all kinds.

Opening of French court files from the state and national archives

The authors were able to make intensive use of the French archival holdings on World War II, which have been opened up since 2015. As a result, under the direction of Ines Rotermund-Reynard, it was possible for the first time to cross-reference the court records of the Paris City Archives, the French National Archives, and the archives of the Paris Police Prefecture. Additionally, archival holdings of German museums with a focus on French acquisitions and persons involved in them were intensively reviewed.

Together with researcher Mattes Lammert, Elisabeth Furtwängler is preparing a publication on museums as actors of the French art market during the German occupation (1940-1945) due to be published in 2022 by De Gruyter.

Partner institutions in the project

The project was initiated in 2017 by the two primary partners INHA and TU Berlin. Since 2018, Elisabeth Furtwängler (TU Berlin) and Ines Rotermund-Reynard (INHA) have been responsible for the project, which is financed by the German Lost Art Foundation in Magdeburg and the German Center for Art History in Paris. Other notable partners in Switzerland (Kunstmuseum Bern, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne), the USA (Association of Art Museum Directors, Washington, D.C.), and Austria (Austrian Provenance Research Lexicon, Vienna) are also involved in the project. The database is also the result of close collaboration with the "Archives nationales," the "Archives de Paris," and "Archives diplomatiques du ministère de l’Europe et des Affaires étrangères" (MEAE).



Elisabeth Furtwängler

Chair for Modern Art History

+49 (0)30 314-25012

Organization name Technische Universität Berlin

Marie-Laure Moreau

Head of Communications

+33 (0)1 47 03 89 50

Organization name Institut national d’histoire de l’art