Thursday, April 20, 2000

Art museum making list of works lacking sources

Effort made to determine ownership

BY Owen Findsen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Like other art museums, the Cincinnati Art Museum is making a list.

        It's a list of paintings that have gaps in their history, from 1933 to 1945, when the National Socialist Party was in power in Germany. During that period the Nazis confiscated works of art from private owners, particularly Jewish owners. Many of these works have found their way into the art market and may have entered museum collections.

        Museum officials are concerned that the public will misunderstand the lists, assuming that all the listed art is stolen.

        “These are not lists of stolen art,” said CAM director Timothy Rub. “They are lists of paintings for which the museums don't have conclusive evidence of provenance (the origin or source) for those years.

        “That could be for many reasons. Art dealers, for instance, are understandably reluctant to reveal their sources because they don't want other dealers to know them.”

        Recently, museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts have posted lists of hundreds of works with gaps in their histories. The lists are being made public so they can be examined by people who are trying to return art stolen by the Nazis to their owners.

        The issue has concerned museums for some time, Mr. Rub said. “The lists you're seeing on the Internet now are the results of as much as five years research by these museums.”

        The CAM has only recently started its research, said chief curator Anita Ellis.

        “We have an assistant curator working exclusively on this, but we don't expect our list to be long. Since 1974, when Millard Rogers became director, we've been pretty careful about provenance. Before that, we don't know what the situation is. This wasn't an issue back then and museums were relatively casual about provenance in those days.”


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