Canadian Holocaust-era Provenance Research Project (CHERP)
CANADIAN HOLOCAUST-ERA PROVENANCE RESEARCH PROJECT (CHERP)
Winnipeg Art Gallery Participates in CAMDO’s national Holocaust-era Provenance Project
WINNIPEG, MANITOBA– February 6, 2014: The Winnipeg Art Gallery is one of six galleries embarking on a pilot research project, coordinated by the Canadian Art Museum Directors Organization (CAMDO), to research the provenance of Holocaust-era art works. Currently there are no known works in the WAG’s collection that have been looted during World War II. The purpose of the project is to investigate paintings that have incomplete provenances during the period of 1933-1945.
The WAG’s art collection does contains paintings that have incomplete provenances for the period 1933-1945, and these paintings will be researched to see if there is any possible link to Nazi-era lootings. Provenance is the documented history of ownership of a work of art, from the time it was created to the present day. For paintings that are often several centuries old, it is quite common for provenances to be incomplete. This is especially true of works whose histories intersect with periods of political or social upheaval, when all forms of moveable assets tend to change hands frequently, legally or otherwise. Since records of ownership are often lost or don’t exist in writing, it is difficult to fully document the full provenance of works of art.
Provenance research is undertaken in a variety of ways, starting with clues that may still exist on the backs of paintings or on their frames, such as labels or inscriptions that point to earlier owners or transactions, or at least to their locations. It is a form of forensic investigation, requiring specialized expertise. A wide variety of relevant documentation must be identified, located and consulted, such as old auction sale catalogues, dealer records, exhibition records, archival photographs, personal papers, family histories, and other archival and published sources. Existing information from the object’s record must be verified, and new information must be sought out. Each painting presents its own particular case, and presents its own particular challenges. In Nazi-era provenance research, additional documentation may come into play, such as government archives, as well as Nazi records seized by the Allies following WWII and now deposited in various archives worldwide. Whereas intensive provenance research on a particular painting may result in the complete reconstruction of its provenance, there are no guarantees of success.
“While I’m pleased to see the media take a heightened interest in what we consider to be very important research,” says Dr. Stephen Borys, Director & CEO (and President of CAMDO) it should be noted that the WAG, like all leading art museums in Canada, has always been diligent in researching the provenance – or history – of their art collections. I am also concerned about misinformation ending up in the media creating a false impression that we or any Canadian museum has looted work in our collection. This is, to the best of our knowledge, not the case. Canadian galleries have long wanted to pursue Holocaust-era provenance research but have not had the resources or funding to do so. Thanks to MAP (Museums Assistance Program) funding we’ll finally have a chance to do so.”
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