Provenance Research

An essential activity of the Cantor Arts Center is to document as fully as possible the works of art that have entered its permanent collection or that are being considered for a long-term loan. This documentation includes records of exhibition and publication, physical condition, and provenance. The goal of provenance research is to trace the history of ownership from the time the artwork was created until it entered the museum’s collection. This research can be very complex and challenging due to a number of factors, including changes in the attribution and title; physical alteration of a work; the absence, loss, or destruction of transfer documents and other records; ambiguities in family histories; an owner’s desire for anonymity; societal and political upheaval; natural disasters; and poor record-keeping over time. Consequently, gaps in provenance are common and do not necessarily mean the object has a problematic past.

The museum has conducted intensive research on its European art collection, paying particular attention to three factors:

• objects that were acquired after 1932 and created before 1946
• objects that were likely to have been in continental Europe between these dates
• objects thought to have changed ownership during this period

These dates correspond to the Nazi party’s rise of power in Germany and its fall at the end of World War II. Numerous artworks were lost during this time through illegal sales, seizures, and looting. Our review and research of these objects is being conducted in accordance with guidelines established by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), the Association of Art Museums (AAM), and the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States (PCHA).

View the list of paintings that have gaps in their provenance during the period 1933 to 1945. This list is a work-in-progress as our investigation continues. Research on the sculpture collection is also ongoing. The Cantor Arts Center welcomes any information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of any art object in its collection.

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