Art dealer of the Avantgarde

Washington Conference

The Arbeitsstelle für Provenienzrecherche/-forschung (provenance research department) at the Institut für Museumsforschung der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin – Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz ( was founded in 2008 to support public institutions in Germany where cultural objects are held to help identify items seized as a result of persecution under the National Socialists. 

The ‘Erklärung der Bundesregierung, der Länder und der kommunalen Spitzenverbände zur Auffindung und zur Rückgabe NS-verfolgungsbedingt entzogenen Kulturgutes, insbesondere aus jüdischem Besitz’ (Declaration by the Federal Government, the Länder and leading local associations to trace and restitute cultural items seized as a result of persecution under the National Socialists, especially from Jewish owners), passed in December 1999, (, details investigations into acquisition procedures and the circumstances under which assets – both individual objects as well as complete collections – were lost under Nazi rule and the consequences this has had to this day in the form of the ongoing task facing museums, libraries, archives and other public institutions.

One year earlier, an agreement governing the fundamental principles for the restitution of Holocaust-era assets was made at the Washington Conference ( Germany signed the declaration along with 43 other states and is obliged to continue its search for cultural objects confiscated as a result of Nazi persecution and, as appropriate, to take necessary steps to find a just and fair solution. To fulfil the obligations and tasks specified through the signing of the Washington Declaration, public institutions in Germany have been able to obtain additional financial support since 2008. Between 2008 and 2011, funding to the sum of 1 million euros was made available from the budget of the Representative of the Federal Government for Culture ( Since 2012, 2 million euros annually have been set aside for provenance research and the systematic inspection of holdings to identify artworks looted by the Nazis. The Arbeitsstelle für Provenienzrecherche, financed by the Kulturstiftung der Länder (, was commissioned to distribute funds for this purpose.

An essential component in the range of tasks dealt with by the Arbeitsstelle für Provenienzrecherche is to ensure the continuous improvement of academic exhange, the publishing of results and findings made in the projects sponsored as well, and the continued expansion of the research network. The Arbeitsstelle für Provenienzrecherche/-forschung was therefore glad to meet the request to take on a moderating and coordinating role with regard to questions clarifying the circumstances in which public institutions in Germany came into possession of artworks and cultural objects that had some form of reference to the Flechtheim collection. Between 2009 and 2011 several meetings were held at which staff at participating museums shared their knowledge and presented the results of their research.

At these meetings it was always decided and agreed upon as to how to divide the workload, not least of all to ensure that funds available are not used on different research projects in the same field by any of the institutions. Thanks to the extremely positive cooperation among colleagues, the results of this academic exchange have also been included in this exhibition project ‘Alfred | Art-dealer of the Avant-garde’ and the presentation on the website