Multimedia archive for life stories of Jewish art-collectors

News from 01/27/2022

The SPK and Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections) are launching a joint project in memory of those persecuted by the Nazis. The multimedia archive will record their lives and fates, revealing the personal stories behind restitution cases. The project will receive 690,000 euros from the BKM.

A person holds a magnifying glass over a sheet of paper
© SPK / photothek.net / Thomas Koehler

The Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) with its Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Berlin State Museums) and the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections) are setting up a media library of information about Jewish collectors, patrons, and owners of art. The project will run for three years. This archive of long-forgotten fates will be based on provenance research carried out by both institutions. In addition to the media library, digital education formats specifically for teenagers and young adults are being developed. The project is funded by the Beauftragten des Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien (Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media); its media partners are Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg and Bayerischer Rundfunk.

The project will illuminate the many and varied life stories of Jewish people in German society before 1933. By raising awareness of the diversity of individual biographies, it aims to counteract the stereotypical ideas that are still circulating today. Hermann Parzinger, President of the SPK, remarked "Jewish collectors helped to shape this country, support artists, and raise the profile of museums. Many of them fell victim to the National Socialists and were robbed of their collections. In the course of our research, we keep coming across names that no one knows any more, but which once stood for important collections, for attitudes, for a life with art. What kind of people were they? By telling their life stories, we hope to restore awareness of many such names. The SPK and the Bavarian State Painting Collections hope that this joint project will make a contribution both to the culture of remembrance and to a tolerant, open society."

For more than twenty years, cultural institutions around the world have been tackling the issue of cultural property looted by the National Socialists, most of it from Jewish owners. The institutions of the SPK and the Bavarian State Painting Collections have been systematically researching the origins of the objects in their collections in accordance with the Washington Principles, and they have been seeking to reach fair and just settlements with the descendants or heirs of the owners concerned. Since 1999, the SPK has processed more than fifty requests for restitution; it has returned more than 350 works of art and around 2,000 books to the claimants concerned. Among them were a drawing by Vincent van Gogh, works by Edvard Munch and Caspar David Friedrich's painting The Watzmann.

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