Art Spoliation

UK national museums have been at the forefront of international action on Holocaust spoliation claims and 1933–45 provenance research.  In 1998, National Museums Directors Conference (NMDC) members adopted a statement of principles and proposed actions regarding the spoliation of works of art during the Holocaust and World War II period. The requirements set out by the NMDC are addressed in the action plan (Spoliation Report) and Spoliation list that the National Portrait Gallery has published on the Collections Trust – Cultural Property Advice website.  The National Portrait Gallery is in the process of reviewing possible art spoliation during the Holocaust and World War II. This work started two years ago, and is still ongoing.

Update on progress on provenance research undertaken on National Portrait Gallery Collections: As of March 2017, Gallery records relating to over 7000 Primary Collection objects have been reviewed for risk of spoliation.  Of these, 4320 were identified as having areas of incomplete provenance in the period 1933-45. In order to maximise resources, the Gallery will prioritize further research based on the level of risk. More detailed checks were carried out on records relating to these objects and each was assigned a risk category.  The majority of the objects under scrutiny fell into the category of ‘negligible’ risk or low risk, requiring no further action.  However,1336 objects now require further research.   Research will be carried out initially on 24 objects which have unknown or uncertain provenance for any amount of time between 1933 and 1945 where foreign provenance is known or suspected.   The National Portrait Gallery will publish the findings of this initial research in the course of 2018 and will seek to follow this with research on additional collection objects.


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