Art dealer of the Avantgarde


The website shows more than 300 works of art whose provenance (ownership history) has a connection with Alfred Flechtheim’s galleries. It enables viewers to explore the history of these pictures and introduces previous owners and dealers. In this way, historical facts about how groups of works entered museum collections are clearly explained. At the same time, it outlines the fate of individual works of art and illustrates the path they took through art dealers and collections in Europe and America and back again to museums in Germany, in whose ownership they are now to be found. At the centre and as the link between the works is the moving fate of the art dealer Alfred Flechtheim, whose life work is honoured by this project. As a symbolic figurehead for trade with works by avant-garde artists at the time of the Weimar Republic and during the Third Reich, Flechtheim’s biography provides an essential foundation for an appraisal of this subject and for further research. In addition, the website investigates the reception Alfred Flechtheim enjoyed. Provenance research on complex historical correlations is also being shown here online for the first time based on works of art, archival material and documents, aimed at reaching a broad, international public.

The virtual combination of more than 300 works makes it possible for an exhibition to be staged that would not otherwise have been feasible in the form of a classical art exhibition in one location. High transport and insurance costs, the fragile nature of the works of art and the lack of an exhibition budget would have made the project impossible. At the same time, the provenances assembled online enable fundamental conclusions to be made about sales strategies, operating methods and habits in the art dealing business built up by Alfred Flechtheim. They illustrate in exemplary fashion where Flechtheim was most valued by museums as an art dealer, for example. While museums in north Germany and in the Rhineland area have extensive holdings of his works, his influence in the south was considerably less as he faced direct competition from other art dealers such as Goltz, Thannhauser, Böhler and Heinemann. However, collections in Munich and Stuttgart profited from foundations in the post-war period (Günther Franke, Theodor and Woty Werner, Hugo Borst) which included works of art from private collections with a Flechtheim provenance. The provenances throw light on which museum directors, collectors and dealers Alfred Flechtheim was in contact with and to what conditions deals were made.

In addition, the website investigates the relation Alfred Flechtheim had to the artists he represented. The more than 80 artist/dealer biographies illustrate the multifaceted and extraordinary commitment the dealer had to Modernist and avant-garde art. It becomes clear that Flechtheim was primarily a dealer for artists defamed by the Nazis and whose works had been banned to the depots or confiscated in 1937. Not all the more than 300 works are still to be found in museums as many works bought through Alfred Flechtheim were confiscated and removed from museums as part of the ‘Degenerate Art’ campaign in 1937.