Provenance research has been a much-discussed topic for over 20 years and is high on the social and cultural policy agenda. A particular challenge of provenance research is to research the buried and also suppressed stories about the origin of artworks and their owners and to bring them back into consciousness.
Fig.above: Remains of Alfred Kerr’s estate library in the Akademie der Künste, Berlin © Akademie der Künste, Berlin Photo: Oliver Ziebe
It is precisely because changes of ownership were often associated with war and repression that the reconstruction of the path from creation to the archive, library or museum is so important for all those involved. It is more than the clarification of ownership and the attempt to recognise historical injustice and, in the best case, to make amends. It enables a new and different view of old familiar works.
The exhibition “SPURENSICHERUNG, Die Geschichte(n) hinter den Werken”, which will be shown at Pariser Platz from 29 October, presents the sophisticated and detective (working) methods of provenance research to a broad public using selected examples. The stories behind the works begin at the object: only precise knowledge of the concrete case makes an assessment possible. The starting point of the show is surprising research results on the provenance of paintings, books, objects and documents in the collections of the Akademie der Künste. At the same time, the show focuses on how complex the decision-making process is when it comes to incriminated objects and how the Akademie der Künste deals with the results of research.
The exhibition focuses on central aspects of the ownership history of works of art: it is about the identification of Nazi looted art in the museum’s own holdings and the search for the collections of the Prussian Academy of Arts lost during the Second World War. A completely different topic that is increasingly coming into focus is the efforts of the GDR state apparatus to come into possession of usable art assets or identity-forming collections.
The objects on display include manuscripts by the philosopher Walter Benjamin as well as the collection of the art critic Alfred Kerr, which was confiscated by the Gestapo, sketches by the painters Max Liebermann and Carl Blechen or Otto Nagel’s collection of paintings. The artist and filmmaker Marianna Christofides explores the objects and themes of the exhibition in a mixed media installation.
Akademie der Künste
Pariser Platz 4
Saturday, 29. October 2022 until Sunday, 22. January 2023
Opening: Friday, 28. October, 7 p.m.
Press preview: Thursday, 27 October, 11 a.m.