i An American GI inspects a looted Durer print in the Merkers salt mine complexines, c.1945. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD

12 – Looted Art: An Introduction to Nazi Spoliation, Provenance Research and Restitution

Course 12

MaryKate Cleary

Summer School – Online
Monday 21 – Friday 25 June 2021
£395

You can still enroll on this course by 17:00 [London], Thursday 17 June. Please email short.courses@courtauld.ac.uk

Course description

In the context of WWII and the Holocaust, Nazi officials perpetrated a co-ordinated programme of art and cultural property dispossession; one of the greatest thefts in history. Hundreds of thousands of objects remain missing or unrecovered by their rightful owners.

We shall begin with an exploration of Nazi cultural ideology, the purge of modern art as “degenerate”, and the sponsorship of a “pure” and “Aryan” art that was widely used for propaganda purposes.  We shall then focus on the systematic looting by the National Socialist regime across Europe, between 1933 and 1945, and the plunder of Jewish collections as a particular mechanism of persecution.  We shall discuss military spoliation, the post-war Allied investigation and recovery efforts, including the work of ‘The Monuments Men’ and the wider ethical and legal dimensions of restitution claims faced by the art world today.

The course introduces fundamental principles and methods of researching the history of ownership, transfer and exhibition, or provenance, of an artwork, a practice as essential to Nazi-era art- historical research as it is to wider curatorial practice. Through a discussion of case studies, and object examinations in a museum setting, participants will also approach questions of contemporary display and interpretation related to these complex historic narratives.

Lecturer’s biography

MaryKate Cleary is an art historian and lecturer specializing in modern art, the history of the art market and collecting, provenance research and cultural property issues in the Nazi era. She is completing a PhD in art history at the University of Edinburgh, where her research focuses on the Galerie Paul Rosenberg and the transnational market for Modern Art in the inter-war era. MaryKate has lectured extensively, including as an Adjunct Professor at New York University, and held roles at MoMA, the Art Loss Register, Sotheby’s, artnet.com and the Jewish Museum. She has a BA in German Literature, and an MA from The Courtauld.

An American GI inspects a looted Durer print in the Merkers salt mine complexines.
An American GI inspects a looted Durer print in the Merkers salt mine complex, c.1945. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD

Citations