Modern Art History
© Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin

The Business Relations between the Kunst und Antiquitäten GmbH of the GDR and Western Auction Houses in the Period from 1973 to 1990: Mechanisms – Networks – Objects

The cooperation project with the German Lost Art Foundation (the Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste) aims to systematically research the business relations between the Kunst und Antiquitäten GmbH of the GDR and Western auction houses in the period from 1973 to 1990. From its foundation in the year 1973 until its close-down shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Kunst und Antiquitäten GmbH exported art objects, antiques and second-hand goods to Western countries to obtain foreign currency. Among the important customers of the East German art trade company were Western auction houses.

On the one hand, the project will investigate the structures and mechanisms of these transactions as well as the networks of actors and companies involved. On the other hand, objects that were consigned by the Kunst und Antiquitäten GmbH to Western auction houses through direct or indirect channels are to be identified. The extent to which these deliveries included art objects from expropriated East German private collections and museum holdings, as well as antiques forbidden for export, must be clarified. Another focus of the research is the perception of auctions with art objects from the GDR.  How did the auction houses deal with their provenance in the auction catalogues, and what information did they disclose about those auctions to the Western public? How did the press on both sides of the Iron Curtain react to such auctions?

The archive stock "Kunst und Antiquitäten GmbH" in the collection DL 210 "Betriebe des Bereichs Kommerzielle Koordinierung" in the Federal Archives of Berlin provides the main source for the project research. Additionally, it will be supplemented by the evaluation of relevant archival records in the Archive of the Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic, the Political Archive of the Foreign Office and the Getty Research Institute.

The collected data would provide an important pool of information for affected collectors and museums in the former GDR and FRG as well as in Western countries. The results will be available to the research community in the Proveana database at the end of the project and after the data protection check is completed.

Funded by



Directed byProf. Dr. Bénédicte
Research staffXenia
Student assistantLisa