Kunsthalle / Our collection / Provenance Research

Tracing Forgotten Stories — Provenance Research at the Kunsthalle Mannheim // Since November 2011, the Kunsthalle has been researching the origins of its paintings, sculptures, and graphic works within the framework of a long-term project sponsored by the federal German government. Its internationally significant goal is to investigate the Nazi looting, and return works of art to their legal owners, which also means investigating the Mannheim collection.

This investigation is relevant for the heirs of persecuted families forced to sell artworks against their will or those who had their art works confiscated under the Nazi dictatorship. Our groundbreaking move within the German museum scene is the integration of the results of provenance research into a permanent collection for the first time. The hard facts are easily summarized: To date, 3,000 inventory numbers of the Mannheim collection have been thoroughly examined by two art experts. Suspicions of Nazi looting were determined in the case of only eighteen works. Further research into these pieces will be conducted. In total, the Kunsthalle has restituted two paintings, a graphic work, and a sculpture since 1945. Since 2013, Dr. Mathias Listl, a provenance researcher, has been tracing all the works that entered the Kunsthalle collection after 1932 and were created before 1946. For this detailed criminal investigation, he consults the house archives, scholarship on artists, and catalogs of works, as well as special databases and international scholars.
In 2015, the examination of sculptures and paintings was concluded. The current focus is on the collection of graphic works. The Kunsthalle is completely transparent: All suspicious cases are published with their backstories on its homepage and on lostart.de. One such work is the etching The Drinker of Wilhelm Leibl. This print was purchased by the Kunsthalle in 1944 from Mannheim’s Verwertungsstelle volksfeindlichen Vermögens (processing department for assets of enemies of the state), which sold the household goods of Jews forced to emigrate and those sent to concentration camps. The actual original owner of the graphic work is yet to be determined.

More about the provenance research at the Kunsthalle Mannheim and an overview of all the works under investigation.

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