Institut für Zeitgeschichte

Persons responsible: Prof. Dr. Magnus Brechtken, Sebastian Peters M.A.

With its specialist library and archive facilities, the Institut für Zeitgeschichte (Institute of Contemporary History) is a centre for provenance research into the contemporary historical questions of users from all over the world. It promotes and supervises dissertation theses that advance foundation research on the art trade in the Nazi era within the field of contemporary history. The institute’s members of staff take an active part in colloquiums and further education programmes, as well as contributing to publications on the looting of cultural assets under the Nazi regime.

Schwabing Art Trove Task Force/Gurlitt Provenance Research

From November 2013 until December 2015 the Institut für Zeitgeschichte München-Berlin (Institute of Contemporary History) was a member of the ‘Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund’ (Schwabing Art Trove Task Force). Since January 2016 it has been working together with the Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste (DZK; German Lost Art Foundation) on the ‘ProvenienzrechercheGurlitt’ (Gurlitt Provenance Research) follow-up project, during which the holdings of the Gurlitt Collection, 1,578 works of art in total, are being examined with respect to looted art. It has been possible to clarify the provenance of 13 artworks definitively since the task force has been in existence. In the case of 680 objects, their loss as a result of Nazi persecution cannot be excluded; these are now to be the subject of a more detailed research. Together with representatives from other institutes the Institute of Contemporary History has acted as adviser to those managing and coordinating research within the task force. In addition, it has worked on project-related, fundamental structural questions on the art market and the general economic processes and mechanisms of the Nazi era from a contemporary historical perspective. In cooperation with the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (Central Institute for Art History) the Institute of Contemporary History is assisting in the classification, indexing and evaluation of the extensive written documents in the Gurlitt estate.

Alfred Flechtheim

In 2015 Andrea Bambi (Bavarian State Painting Collections) and Axel Drecoll (Institute of Contemporary History) published Alfred Flechtheim. Raubkunst und Restitution in which scholars and experts in the fields of contemporary history, art history and provenance research have focused on one of the most important art dealers of the day. As an eminent collector, dealer and patron of the arts Flechtheim represented exceptional masters such as Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso. In 1933 he was forced to flee Germany as a result of persecution. What happened to Flechtheim’s pictures is partly still unaccounted for to this day. Concomitantly, challenges central to the restitution of cultural assets seized by the Nazis can be clearly seen through the example of Flechtheim.


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